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12-Step Programs Do Not Work

12-Step Programs Do Not Work, Or Do They? - Resurgence - A group of individuals meets for their 12-step programs after inpatient treatment as a form of addiction aftercare to help maintain their sobriety.


What is the 12-Step Program?

When it is time to stop drinking, people think of alcoholics anonymous or a 12-step program.

The 12-step program is a deviation from the original.

However, they both have a spiritual component.

AA or alcoholics anonymous is the first program to help those who suffer from alcoholism.

Developed in 1935, it is the most recognized and recommended treatment for alcoholism.

The core guiding principle of the 12 steps is the belief in a higher power.

This underlying spiritual element can be uncomfortable and confusing for some.

Many people struggle due to the numerous references to God or a higher power.

Often meetings end with a closing prayer.

These are the original 12 Steps published by Alcoholics Anonymous.


  • Step 1- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol– that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Step 2- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Step 3- Decided to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Step 4- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Step 5- Admitted to God, to us, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Step 6- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Step 7- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Step 8- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Step 10- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Step 11- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Step 12- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Immediate Placement in 12-Step Programs


Why 12-Step Programs Do Not Work for Some

Only promoting absence can deter a lot of people from the 12-step program.

Many people only have a mild to a moderate alcohol use disorder.

The idea that you can never drink again is hard to accept for this subset of people.

Some have a hard time with the spiritual component of a 12-step program.

Others do not want to feel powerless.

The information is outdated.

Many 12-step programs do not promote modern medical advancements that can help.

The “Big Book” does not reflect current scientific and medical advances in addiction treatment.

Learn More About 12-Step Programs


Your Mental Health and Alcoholism

Often, people who suffer from alcoholism have co-occurring mental health issues. Medical research shows that when you treat underlying conditions, drinking decreases. A standalone 12-step program is unable to address mental health problems. The acceptance of therapies and medications is mixed. The type of help you receive depends on where you go to the meeting.  

Effect and Abuse of Alcoholism

Alcohol inhibits the brain’s ability to communicate effectively, thus changing the way you feel and act. The abuse of alcohol can cause several physical and mental health problems. The heart is susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Heart attack and heart failure are serious issues with chronic alcoholism. Often people become so overwhelmed by their symptoms that it fuels their need to drink more. Depression often occurs as a dual diagnosis. Alcohol is a depressant which can make the symptoms of depression more pronounced. Alcoholics that suffer from anxiety, excess worry, paranoia, or panic attacks drink more. This habit, which provides temporary relief from these symptoms, can become addictive. This “self-medicating” behavior can lead to increased consumption. 

Alternative Treatments for Alcoholism

While 12-step programs help many addicts, other options do exist for those who do not fit. 12-step programs are singularly focused on one issue, addiction. The underlying issue that contributes to your addiction cannot be addressed in a 12-step program. Mental health disorders like trauma or chronic physical illnesses, need to be addressed. A successful alcohol addiction program involves a multi-step approach. This program can include medical detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment, and follow-up enrollment in aftercare. The goal of addiction treatment is to eventually find a life free from addiction. It does not matter the route it takes to get there. 

Medical Detoxing

Alcoholism detox is under medical supervision. To avoid life-threatening complications, safety is key during alcohol detox and withdrawal. There is a certain level of risk involved in stopping alcohol consumption, especially if you have developed a physiological dependence. The symptoms of withdrawal can include seizures, agitation, fever, and delusions. If the situation becomes life-threatening, having on-call medical staff nearby is essential. Your doctor can determine if you require a medically supervised detox. 

Medications for Alcoholism

The Food and Drug Administration approved medications that can help you stop drinking. These medications that can help with alcoholism are underused in addiction treatment. Two medications that help to reduce cravings for alcohol are naltrexone and acamprosate. If you drink while taking these, you will still experience the effects of alcohol. Your coordination and judgment are impaired. Instead, the medications take away the “reward,” which reinforces the urge to drink. This makes the idea of drinking less appealing, reducing your motivation to drink. The third is disulfiram, and it is less effective as a treatment. When taken with alcohol, it makes you very ill. Often due to the side effects, people will stop taking it. These medications can supplement addiction treatment. Medications can replace the need for peer-support like the 12 step program. 

Behavioral Therapy

A common therapy for alcoholism is cognitive-behavioral therapy. It helps you to change the way you react by changing the way you think. It is helpful to slow down problematic drinking and prevent relapse. The skills and tools learned aim to help you make positive changes in your life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for alcoholism addresses individual problems. Using a collaborative goal-oriented approach, it typically lasts 10 to 20 sessions. This therapy moves quickly. You are assigned weekly tasks to complete. After you complete the homework, you report back with your results in the following session. 

Getting Help for Alcoholism

The 12-step program for some can be the answer to positive change, but it does not work for everyone. A 12-step program may not be the right approach to treat your addiction. Like any single approach to addiction, 12-step recovery is not for everyone. Alcohol acts on many different parts of the brain. It only makes sense to choose a comprehensive addiction treatment program. It can make a difference in your recovery. Are you struggling with your alcohol use and want help? Resurgence Behavioral Health is your answer. We offer innovative treatment that inspires you to reach recovery. Give us a call for a consultation.

Find Out More Information On 12-Step Programs


Payment Costs

There are many ways that you can enter into a treatment program to help you overcome your addiction.

We accept most major insurance carriers.

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