Updated on November 6, 2023
9 min read

Addiction Support Groups

What Are Addiction Support Groups?

Support groups help participants stay on track with their addiction recovery through shared experiences. They also encourage personal growth.

Addiction support groups allow people to connect with others in similar situations. Some peer support groups also add a spiritual emphasis to aid recovery further.

Being an active group member in these communities is essential in many addiction treatment programs. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and 12-step programs are renowned examples of such organizations. 

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What Are the Benefits of Addiction Support Groups?

Some of the primary benefits of addiction support groups include:

  • Developing recovery coping skills
  • Learning skills to control and eliminate cravings
  • Enhanced motivation to get clean and stay sober
  • Developing the ability to support and help others through the recovery process
  • Connecting with others and making new friends
  • Building a support group to keep you accountable
  • Reduced symptoms of depression and increased overall happiness
  • Improved mental health

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What Can You Expect from Addiction Support Groups?

Addiction support groups offer a range of experiences depending on the program. Group leaders and members prioritize your comfort and will never push you to participate in anything that makes you uneasy. 

The primary goal of these groups is to create a safe and supportive environment. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) often holds meetings encouraging open dialogue. 

You can share as much or as little information as possible. Exploring multiple support groups can help you find the one that best fits your needs.

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What Are the Types of Drug and Alcohol Support Groups?

1. 12-Step Programs

12-step programs use tools that help you manage an addiction. The most popular 12-step program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This organization offers various support and treatment programs for different addiction types. 

12-step programs are a widely accepted form of addiction treatment. They can serve as long-term post-treatment support after detox and rehab or as the primary treatment program method.

Members of these groups attend meetings and recovery training sessions in person within their communities. They discuss their experiences with addiction and offer peer support to one another to remain sober.

The Benefits of 12-Step Membership

One of the primary benefits of a 12-step program is the fellowship it provides. A person’s social circle may often change to include those who support abstinence and sobriety. As a result, members typically don't associate with people with drug or alcohol problems. 

Consequently, they face fewer temptations to relapse because they aren’t exposed to such opportunities as often. 

Members can also form fulfilling relationships with like-minded people. So they get to engage in alternative, sober activities.

Other 12-Step Programs

Other 12-step groups include:

  • Heroin Anonymous
  • Marijuana Anonymous
  • Pills Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous

2. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who currently have or have had a drinking problem. The only requirement for members is the desire to overcome their addiction to alcohol. 

The primary purpose of AA is to carry its message of hope to those struggling with alcohol abuse. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are informal gatherings of people from all walks of life. 

AA Meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous holds meetings worldwide, and most run similarly. These meetings typically last about an hour to an hour and a half and do not exceed 90 minutes. 

Every meeting commences with a short prayer, usually a condensed version of The Serenity Prayer. Following the prayer, a chairperson welcomes the attendees and proceeds to read the 12 steps of AA along with other AA doctrines.

AA meetings are pivotal in the recovery journey. While the format can vary, attendees can share personal experiences, though some may opt not to.

AA Sobriety Tokens

You can also receive AA chips from these meetings. These are tokens that symbolize the duration of your sobriety. Another token available is the "A Desire to Stop Drinking Chip," which represents a commitment to stay sober for 24 hours.

3. Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)

The Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization (ACoAs) provides resources and advice for those who grew up with alcoholics. 

ACA is renowned for "The Laundry List." The Laundry List is a catalog detailing traits of people who grew up in an alcoholic environment. The "Other' List" enumerates some common characteristics among adult children of alcoholics.

4. Al-Anon (Support for People Affected by Alcoholism)

Al-Anon is a community of relatives and friends of alcoholics. People come to share their experiences relating to an alcoholic loved one.

Members practice the Twelve Steps and receive support while learning to understand and encourage their alcoholic loved one. Al-Anon is self-supporting through voluntary donations; members don’t have to pay to join.

5. Nar-Anon (Al-Anon for Drugs)

Nar-Anon is a 12-step program that supports those with a friend or relative struggling with drug abuse. 

While not a religious organization, Nar-Anon emphasizes a spiritual way of life. It also leans on the guidance of a higher power as each person understands it. 

To determine if the program is a good fit, Nar-Anon offers a list of 20 questions. If you respond affirmatively to at least four questions, then Nar-Anon may suit you.

6. Alateen Support Groups

Alateen is a group for young people whose loved ones either have AUD or grapple with alcohol consumption. As part of the Al-Anon family, Alateen operates under the framework of 12-step programs. 

These groups offer support, guidance, and an opportunity to connect with people facing similar challenges. The primary focus of Al-Anon/Alateen is addressing issues related to alcohol.

7. Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a program of complete abstinence for recovering and active drug users. Members attend weekly and anonymous meetings to help one another maintain sobriety.

The primary purpose of NA is to build strong support groups. It also aims to help members remain completely abstinent from drugs. People with active addictions are also welcome to attend NA meetings.

8. SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a global abstinence-oriented organization. It teaches participants techniques to transition to happier, more fulfilling lives. 

Unlike other programs, SMART Recovery avoids labels like “alcoholic” and “addict.” It aims to provide a scientifically validated method to help people improve their lives. 

The organization acknowledges that while addictions serve as a coping mechanism, they ultimately result in more harm than good. Membership in SMART Recovery is free.

Benefits and Approach of SMART Recovery

According to SMART Recovery, the benefits of the program include:

  • Gaining independence from addictive behaviors
  • Maintaining motivation to stay sober
  • Acquiring the tools needed to cope with urges
  • Learning to manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Finding ways to live a balanced life

Additionally, members learn to handle negative emotions that could lead to a relapse. They also acquire skills in replacing addictive behaviors with healthier activities.

9. Co-Dependents Anonymous

A co-dependent is someone whose behavior hinders the treatment and recovery of an addicted person. This person is usually a friend, relative, or romantic partner of the person struggling with addiction.

Co-Dependents Anonymous is an organization dedicated to assisting co-dependents in unlearning these behaviors. 

Through group meetings, participants learn how to form and maintain nurturing relationships with themselves and others. Thus, this ultimately leads to healthier relationships overall.

10. Families Anonymous

Families Anonymous (FA) is a support program based on the 12-step model. It assists family members and friends of people struggling with substance abuse and addictive behaviors. 

Established in 1971, FA shares a similar philosophy with AA. The primary objective of FA is to create an environment where people can come together to connect, gain support, and share personal experiences. In doing so, it hopes to contribute to a cathartic and healing process.

How to Join a Support Group

If you're currently undergoing addiction treatment, your physician can help point you in the right direction. Joining a support group is simple.

These are the general steps you can expect:

  1. Research available support groups: You can ask your healthcare provider for recommendations or research online for the different types.
  2. Pick a group that best suits your needs: Schedule an appointment to attend one of their meetings; most will have open sessions where anyone can join.
  3. Introduce yourself: Follow the facilitator’s instructions to share anything.
  4. Participate actively: Don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer assistance and support to others attending the meeting.

 Most support groups are open to the public. You can find out how to join by visiting the organization’s website and looking up session times and locations.  

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How to Stage An Intervention

Support groups play a crucial role in recovery. However, many people first need a direct conversation about the impacts of their addiction through an intervention.

People carry out interventions to try and convince someone struggling with addiction to seek help. It involves assembling a group of friends, family members, and other loved ones of the person in need.

The goal is for the team to communicate their concerns openly and compassionately. They do this, hoping the person will realize they need professional help for their addiction.

Guidelines for Staging a Successful Intervention

In staging an intervention, keep the following things in mind:

  • Have a plan: Set up an intervention meeting and develop an agenda that offers help and support.
  • Understand the addiction: Educate yourself about the person’s addictive behavior.
  • Maintain compassion: Respectfully speak to the person rather than being confrontational or judgmental.
  • Offer solutions: Present treatment options, including follow-up care and the support of a recovery group.
  • Be prepared for anything: The person may deny they have an addiction or become emotional during the intervention.

An intervention is difficult to stage but can be a powerful tool. When you do them correctly, they help people struggling with substance abuse realize they need help. They also create a supportive environment for them to find it.


Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment for people struggling with addiction. Members attend weekly meetings to share their experiences, offer advice, and find support during recovery.

Popular programs include the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Families Anonymous. Interventions also play an important role, allowing friends and family members to express concern.

For more information about support groups, consult your healthcare provider or visit the website of an organization you’re interested in joining. There, you'll have access to resources to help you find the best group for your needs. 

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Updated on November 6, 2023

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