AA or Residential Treatment?

Oftentimes, on this blog, we discuss specific research and events that are pertinent to the world of drug and alcohol treatment in Florida. It has been brought to my attention that many people who are looking at drug and alcohol treatment options may be doing so for the first time in 2021. This is more likely because of the growing opioid crisis and the ongoing Covid-19 depression and substance abuse crisis.

If you are looking into drug or alcohol treatment options in Florida, one vital decision that people must make is whether to seek out meetings with AA or NA groups, or look into halfway houses, or other residential treatment options. One thing I would say is that these things are not mutually exclusive. The only important distinction for most people between different options is cost. Every AA and NA program I am familiar with is free of charge, but AA/NA does not normally involve any type of formal medical care. That is the reason for most cost differences. Residential treatment is generally more expensive, as people in detox and residential rehabs are overseen by medical staff 24 hours a day in many cases. Many people, hundreds of thousands, have been to residential drug or alcohol treatment and also attend AA meetings regularly or on occasion. When I say AA meetings, I am including programs like NA under the same umbrella organization of 12-step programs.

Are Doctors Necessary for Treating Addiction?

While most people living and working around the drug and alcohol treatment field believe in the success that AA has had for many people, it is still important that the public understands the need for medical interventions for substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is the medical term for all alcohol and drug abuse and addiction problems. Whether you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or any other drug, it is good to educate yourself on the disease of addiction. There are many serious physical symptoms that people with substance use disorder will deal with when they first get sober. There are also many psychological symptoms associated with stopping use of an addictive drug. Some of the substances with very serious psychological symptoms from quitting are methamphetamine, alcohol, benzodiazepines like Xanax, and opioids such as Vicodin, oxycontin, or heroin to name just a few. While AA is a great option for people to help stay sober in the long term, some of the serious short-term effects from stopping drugs and alcohol make help from a physician and other medical personnel hugely beneficial and necessary in many cases. If the cost of such treatment is a major concern for you or your family member, it is important to start researching the different treatment options that are available right away, as more time spent looking for different treatment options will often mean more reasonable treatment options to choose from.

AA and NA as Recovery Options

The 2 main groups that I think about when it comes to 12-step programs are Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They might sound like they do very different things, but the first thing I should say here is that the two groups share founding principles, the 12-step architecture for staying sober, and neither AA nor NA cater to only people addicted to those specific substances. You will find many loyal NA members who have been sober from alcohol for decades, and you will find AA members all over the country who have never had a problem with alcohol in particular. While more information might be necessary in order to state exactly what percentage of people in AA stay sober, there can be no doubt that AA and NA have helped many thousands of people achieve long-term sobriety. The cases that I would deem most appropriate for starting with AA meetings are those cases where the addicted person does not have physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug of choice and has not failed to stay sober on past attempts at sobriety. Medical interventions are most appropriate for people with the more serious cases of addiction, which can be measured by the seriousness of ill effects from drugs or alcohol and by failure to stop using on previous attempts to quit. Importantly, if someone who has substance use disorder tries to stay sober through serious withdrawal symptoms without medical help, they are setting themselves up for failure, in my opinion. I have seldom heard of even a single case where someone had terrible withdrawal symptoms, had the means to get their drug of choice, and simply withheld from using on the basis of sheer willpower. That is almost impossible for humans, and there is no reason to expect that of anyone. If you are the loved one of a person with addiction issues, medical help and AA/NA can be done at the same time. Many treatment facilities, including Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center, a wonderful drug and alcohol treatment facility in Panama City, Florida, incorporate aspects of AA into the normal treatment programs, and many residential facilities host AA and NA meetings within their walls.

By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)