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Although the 12 step approach is the most recognized form of recovery support, it is not for everyone. Based on principles that encourage participants to submit themselves to a higher power, 12 step programs are often not the best program for those suffering from addiction.

As society’s understanding of addiction has improved over the years, attitudes have changed significantly and there are now non 12 step recovery programs offering extremely effective alternatives. It is crucial that a patient is aligned to the principles of the addiction treatment they receive as it is more likely to resonate with them in a way they can apply to their lives in sobriety.

People who have an addiction to heroin often respond well to non 12 step recovery programs, particularly if their dependence started with prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse has become a significant issue in America and is an increasingly common cause of almost 65,000 overdose deaths each year.

Because people are initially prescribed opiate-based painkillers such as OxyContin or Percocet by their physicians, they don’t often understand that they can become dependent on them. After all, a physician’s prescription is “safe”, right?

In fact, the opposite is true. When someone is taking powerful drugs to combat pain, their bodies quickly develop tolerance to their effects. Taking progressively higher doses to alleviate pain can soon develop into a physical dependence on the pleasant sensations the drugs create. When that happens, a person is no longer in control of their cravings or their need to use drugs and they can involve themselves in dangerous behaviors in order to obtain them.

Why the 12 Steps Don’t Always Work For Heroin Addiction

When prescription drug abuse becomes an addiction, many people feel a big sense of confusion and shame. This is very often because our perception of an addict is of someone who has made a lifestyle choice to take drugs which has spiraled out of control to become an illness.

This serves to make it more difficult for people with prescription drug addiction to reach out for help as they might either be:

  • Unsure if they are actually addicted to drugs, or
  • Concerned that they will be judged or misunderstood

The problem with 12 steps for these individuals is that it is a recovery model that is based entirely on judgmental principals. By submitting themselves to a higher power, a person is effectively distancing themselves from a problem only they can only heal from within. Non 12 step rehabilitation is a more patient-centric approach that encourages people to find their own path to recovery.

Heroin addiction results in someone completely losing their identity to their compulsion to abuse the drug. Thought processes and behavioral patterns are no longer directed by the individual but led by a warped brain chemistry that has completely claimed their freedom of choice.

Non 12 step recovery programs recognize that addiction is not a personality flaw or a sign of immorality but it is an illness that requires people to remain actively engaged in its treatment. Identifying the negative thoughts motivating the illness allows people to make significant changes in their lives which lead to happy and healthy lives in sobriety. Handing over responsibility to a superior being is unlikely to have as much impact over the long term as it doesn’t address the root causes of addiction effectively enough.

What’s involved in Non 12 Step Treatment?

One of the most common evidence-based approaches used in non 12 step rehab centers is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.  CBT identifies and addresses a person’s negative thought processes and unravels the behaviors leading to addiction and seeks to alter them. This process of inner exploration helps people unlearn negative behaviors and replace them with healthier responses to recovery.

Holistic techniques and practices also offer significant benefits to people seeking non 12 step rehab centers. Holistic therapies treat the body as a whole; emotionally, physically and psychologically which have usually been damaged significantly as a result of substance abuse. Because of the particularly potent nature of heroin, holistic therapies can be particularly beneficial in relieving withdrawal symptoms and as protection against relapse.

One component of 12 step programs that non 12 step rehabilitation shares is group therapy. It is widely recognized that recovering addicts are more likely to thrive after treatment when they are supported by others who understand them. A sense of camaraderie is particularly important for patients leaving heroin rehab centers who will need to lean on others when faced with triggers for relapse in their daily lives. However, these group discussions don’t need to have a religious affiliation as there are numerous non 12 step rehab centers offering alternatives.

Respecting the Individual on their Personal Path to Recovery

Elevate believes that the personal needs of an individual with addiction should be respected and that there’s no one path to sobriety. We also believe that a person is not defined by their addiction although they have to take responsibility for their health in order to overcome it. Addiction is non-discriminatory and so approaches to its treatment should be the same. The most effective way of supporting someone through their addiction journey so that they achieve a sustainable recovery is to listen to them. By understanding each patient’s unique set of treatment needs, a clear strategy can be planned for them to achieve a happy and healthy drug-free life.

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