Adding medication-assisted treatment to 12-step programs

Adding medication-assisted treatment to 12-step programs

Traditional 12-step programs and medication-assisted treatments (MATs) have proven to be effective for people with substance use disorders (SUDs), but new research suggests that addiction treatment could be improved if these two unique approaches are used in combination.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), when medications are used in addition to behavioral therapy to treat SUDs, patients tend to demonstrate a dramatic improvement. SAMHSA highlights that MATs are especially effective for individuals with severe SUDs, such as opioid use disorders (OUDs).

Traditional 12-step programs, on the other hand, focus more on the guidance and support that participants need to receive throughout the distinct levels of recovery. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), 12-step programs remain “a tried-and-true proven approach” to treating addiction.

The new research — conducted by Dr. Marc Galanter, a professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and chair of ASAM’s Action Group on 12-step recovery who has authored over 200 peer-reviewed articles on addiction — aimed to find out how the two aforementioned approaches to treating addiction can be used together to enhance the overall results of those in recovery.

In addition to adding his own experienced opinions to the research, Galanter reviewed a number of previous studies and works regarding available treatment options in residential addiction treatment facilities and ambulatory settings. He analyzed problematic scenarios with long-term rehab treatment; pharmacologic limitations; and the potential associated with MATs and 12-step programs separately and simultaneously.

The research, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, described 12-step programs and modern medical practices as opposing and conflicting cultures. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded in the 1930s before effective medical support for alcoholism existed, Galanter explained, so its approaches can often be perceived to operate separately from established modalities of medicine.

But multiple studies have shown have shown links between participation in 12-step programs and better outcomes in clinical addiction treatment, he stated, before highlighting a particular study that found that people who voluntarily used AA saved about 45 percent more than… (continue reading)