Downfall of 12 Step Rehab
Reasons For Failure
We would prefer to believe that those that offer twelve-step substance abuse treatment, though misguided, do so because they genuinely want to help. It is important to believe that these individuals are not purposely sabotaging recovery or offering ineffective treatment simply to grow their ranks.
Group counseling where patients swap "war stories" about their substance abuse does little to address the underlying problem. It may even feed the urge to use again because it stimulates potential triggers for people who should be avoiding them at all cost. In fact, many times the attending members relapse and look for justification as to why they can't get control of their addiction – these programs are more than happy to give them that reason.
In recent years, the 12-step rehab treatment model has been coming under increasing criticism for several key reasons:
The belief that one cannot overcome addiction -
The biggest problem is the chronic fortifying idea that drug addiction cannot be controlled; that it is somehow an incurable disease. Convincing someone that is struggling with a dependency that they have a disease of which they are powerless to resist, is simply not the way to empower anyone. According to the tenants of traditional treatment, the best thing that someone with a substance abuse problem can hope for is battling this disease day-by-day for the rest of their life. If that sounds like it creates an apathetic existence, you would be right, because it does. Branding someone as 'powerless' removes all self-generated causation to change and makes the individual less responsible for their own actions. It ends up giving justification to relapse because ultimately, "it was likely to happen anyway."
It is a proven fact that self-control and self-awareness are vital components when it comes to recovering from addiction. An important component for both these factors is admitting that there is a problem with a substance. However, denying that you can do anything about it goes against everything that self-control and awareness stands for. When you make it clear to someone that they can't do something on their own and inform them that they are powerless; it does nothing but provide an excuse for failure down the road.
Not addressing the underlying issues -
Research has proven that group therapy by itself is not enough to stop the destructive behavior of someone caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. In fact, oftentimes the continual discussion of past drug use and recent relapses merely increases the craving for drugs and alcohol. The addict has both a physical and mental dependency that needs to be addressed in order to provide lasting long-term recovery.
The truth is that you can't 'force' someone into long-term sobriety without them first wanting it for themselves. They have to want recovery more than they want to use drugs or alcohol. It is possible to help someone detox their body, which would curb the initial physical cravings, but it does not address the root reason why these people used drugs or alcohol to begin with. Sitting someone down and chastising them for their destructive behavior does nothing but make them feel bad about themselves. Now ask yourself, what do most people struggling with addiction use as a crutch when they feel bad? Their substance of choice.
Using a one-step approach -
Even though addiction is a multi-faceted problem that does not just begin or end with the abuse of drugs and alcohol, these traditional recovery programs tend to use a singular approach. If the person enrolled does not make progress, they are simply going to have to repeat the same 12 steps again and again. They are forced to do this until they somehow see the light and are miraculously cured. This is the exact definition of insanity according to Einstein: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
A religious approach -
The religious doctrine that one must give themselves to God in order to get control of their addiction is another problem for many. When looking at the Twelve Steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous, a quick count reveals that half of them refer to 'God' directly while seven of them refer to a belief in God. People with different religious beliefs find it difficult to participate with their 12-step group. Some have said this made them feel like an outsider and more alone than before.
They are Not Proven to be Effective
At first, these programs were the "only game in town" for a while. Its inclusion in certain types of treatment regimens, the number of programs and members that use this method does not mean that it is effective. It simply means that it was popular. Now that individuals have other options available to them, the number of people enrolling in traditional rehabilitation programs is actually dwindling.
Evidence of success is always testimonial based. The information about abstaining from drug or alcohol use is provided by individuals who have bought into their philosophy – does anyone expect them to admit that the program is a failure? While there are only a handful of people actually enrolled that vouch for them, there is empirical evidence that suggests that the 12 step philosophy does very little, if anything at all. You can read more information here and here.
The number of people that relapse when enrolled in a twelve-step facility is astounding with a high rate of individuals dropping out and returning to their destructive lifestyles. It is commonly reported that half of the people that enroll in these programs don't make it past the first three weeks. Shockingly, the success rate of some 12-step rehab groups is below 10%. That is lower than the spontaneous remission rate for alcohol abuse.
Relapse in a 12-step program is common because of the lack of assistance given to the individual. Relapsing only fortifies the belief that they can't overcome their addiction, which causes many to give up. It ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
While the premise of twelve-step rehabs is noble at heart - giving addicts a support system from which to gain strength - it is often not enough. While the original intent may be positive, this type of treatment can in fact hurt an individual's chances of achieving a clean and sober life rather than facilitate it.
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