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The Difference Between Addiction Treatment and 12-Step Programs

by | Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 2:58PM | Published on Oct 27, 2019 | Rehab Programs


In today’s world, many people confuse the two, often shown interchangeably. However, there are countless differences between addiction treatment and 12-step programs.

While it’s certainly a fact that treatment and twelve-step recovery go hand-in-hand, they’re not the same thing. Generally, twelve-step groups offer a way to arrest and treat addiction and are often the post addiction treatment plan for long-term recovery. However, most addicts admit to drug rehab before committing to 12-step programming long-term.

Both rehab and twelve-step recovery are vital parts of long-term sobriety from addiction and unhealthy behavior, but they have some significant differences.

Addiction Treatment Is Evidence-Based

Drug rehab using evidence-based modalities is probably the most significant difference between addiction treatment and 12-step programs. Additionally, most drug rehab centers offer evidence-based treatment plans that can even be covered by health insurance.

Addiction treatment needs to be custom, and most treatment centers offer a wide range of options, for example:

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we offer comprehensive addiction treatment programs that cater to the unique needs of individuals.

12-Step Programs Are Fellowships

In reality, 12-step programs are not the creation of science. While there’s research that proves these programs help people maintain sobriety, they don’t have medical supervision.

Most 12-step programs like AA and NA are fellowships of people meeting together with a common problem. The program itself is the 12-steps; however, people can attend meetings without following the steps. Generally, these meetings are voluntary and donation-based. The purpose of these meetings is to find support in recovery. However, there are no therapists, medical experts, or addiction specialists guiding these meetings. 

Differences Between Treatment and 12-Step Programs

The differences between addiction treatment and 12-step programs are apparent. In most cases, someone with an acute substance use disorder first seeks addiction treatment. Following drug rehabilitation, addicts enter 12-step programs as an aftercare treatment plan that can help them build their confidence and continue their recovery path.

Addiction Treatment

  • Addiction treatments take place at professional facilities.
  • Drug treatment often has a time limit and are paid services.
  • Treatment involves various modalities and can take place in different settings
  • Drug rehab uses evidence-based treatments performed by therapists and clinicians.
  • Most addiction treatment centers offer different levels of care.

12-Step Programs

  • 12-step meetings take place at regular facilities or churches.
  • Most programs rely on spiritual principles to encourage recovery and sobriety.
  • 12-step programs are donation-based.
  • There are no licensed therapists or clinicians that lead AA or NA meetings.
  • There’s only one program being followed by everyone present.

How to Know Which One to Choose?

When it comes to choosing between addiction treatment and 12-step programs, the truth is you need both. Anyone struggling with substance abuse should seek professional help. Addiction treatment centers can also diagnose, treat, and change the course of action if required—something 12-step programs can’t provide.

Most treatment plans even incorporate the 12-step programs and can certainly work together. The initial step to finding recovery is to seek drug rehab at a treatment center. Here, patients often undergo a medical detox with the help of medication-assisted therapy to ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent life-threatening consequences of stopping substance abuse. Then, patients move either to an inpatient or outpatient plan that incorporates various treatments to address the underlying causes of their addiction.

Eventually, once patients find themselves on a solid path to recovery, most treatment centers recommend 12-step programs as a form of long-term care. Most AA and AN meetings offer a sense of fellowship and companionship that can help recovering addicts feel a sense of hope and determination. Generally, the purpose of these meetings is to prevent relapse after treatment.

Find the Help You Need Today

Stop waiting to choose between addiction treatment and 12-step programs and seek help today. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, contact an addiction treatment center near you to learn more about their programs. Our addiction specialists at Lighthouse Recovery Institute can help you find the right treatment plan to help you achieve sobriety. Together, we can help you see life after addiction.

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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