Looking for a drug addict support organization besides NA
April 29, 2011 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Please suggest support groups for recovering drug addicts besides Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

A friend of mine is a recovering meth addict. She's been clean for the past few years and has been doing really well in getting her life together. She's almost done with college and has plans to go to grad school. She recently broke up with her boyfriend, and I don't think she's taken any time to process the breakup.

She's now hanging out with a guy who is known as the king of recreational drug use on campus. She has told me that they have used marijuana, cocaine, mushrooms, and K2 together.

She quit the meth of her own accord, so she says. She refuses to go to NA meetings because she says it's too guilt based and she doesn't do well with that. I want her to get help from some group or organization.

Are there any groups out there besides NA who might help this girl get her sobriety back and stay clean?
posted by stedman15 to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
As a former meth addict (well once an addict always an addict right) I would say that she is a grown woman, she will quit when she is ready, not before, no matter what kind of group she goes to.
posted by holdkris99 at 12:49 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I want her to get help

This is not how this works. She has to want it, what you want is irrelevant as far as her addiction goes.
posted by holdkris99 at 12:50 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

She has to want it, but there's nothing wrong with helping to provide resources for it so she has them when the time comes, I'd think. What geographical area is she in?
posted by rmd1023 at 1:00 PM on April 29, 2011

It is quite common for an addict to say they don't like NA for this reason or that reason, when in fact they're just using that as an excuse to not deal with their addiction.
posted by Melismata at 1:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

What Melismata said. Also, NA is less likely to "take" if the person involved is not a christian, or at least somewhat religious because that's what NA is, a religion. The way NA works on an addict is that the rituals involved with going to a meeting, the rote memorization on tenets, the Step Work, etc becomes the addiction. In rehabs and meetings of all kinds you hear that you have to replace the bad habits with good habits and NA becomes the "good habit." Anyway, my advice is to make it known to her that you are available to help but then you have to back off and not press the issue. You have to decide for yourself how involved you want to be in this process because you may end up being hurt, even with your friends best interest at heart. This from a person who hurt plenty of people who tried to help
posted by holdkris99 at 1:30 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's really nice that you want to help her, but possibly the best thing you can do for her is to go to Al-Anon yourself.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:39 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

what other people said about her wanting to stop is very valid. what they said about addicts using excuses about treatment to keep on using is also often correct. as that has been dealt with, i am going to more directly answer your question.

a suggestion i have seen a lot and read up on is SMART recovery. it is more science based and less give it up to god. she might find it less judgey.
posted by nadawi at 2:09 PM on April 29, 2011

Best answer: Check out Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, SOS, and/or LifeRing. You might also investigate CBT, a science-based form of therapy. Depending on your location, a therapist who specializes in CBT (perhaps even specifically for addiction) may or may not be easier to find than a secular, non-12-step recovery group.

Doctors may be another potential source of help; evidence suggests that brief interventions are roughly as effective as anything else, and that they (like every other form of addiction treatment) can sometimes make a difference even if the patient does not "want help". They've been known to help convince people to seek more in-depth treatment, for example.

I would agree with others that you can't force your friend to stay sober... but what you can do is provide options, and a positive voice against the idea that the 12-Step way is the only way.
posted by vorfeed at 2:11 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, total abstinence for life is not the only way: just because NA types freak out about the fact that she's done drugs again doesn't mean that she's inevitably going to fall back into addiction.

Most heavy users (even many addicts) actually *do* quit or moderate drugs (including methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin) on their own and their "recoveries" often look nothing like the no-alcohol, no-drugs, no-possibility-of-moderation recoveries that people in 12-step programs claim are the only way to get better.

That said, it's generally not a good idea to say, use other stimulants once you've had serious trouble with one. But some people do manage this.

SMART can be very helpful for people who don't like the rigidity or religion of the 12-step approach—would definitely recommend suggesting that if she's open to it.

And btw, the notion that you are "codependent" for wanting to help is nonsense—there's actually no such thing as codependency. No one has ever been able to find replicable characteristics of people who supposedly are addicted to helping other people. Yes, it's a bad idea to spend your life trying to fix someone who doesn't want to be helped—but the notion of codependency pathologizes normal altruism and deep connections to others.
posted by Maias at 3:31 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Also, total abstinence for life is not the only way: just because NA types freak out about the fact that she's done drugs again doesn't mean that she's inevitably going to fall back into addiction. "

While technically true - that's a rather dangerous way to approach things. It's far more likely that she will fall back into addictive behaviour than not. From the description, she already is, or she wouldn't be tangling with drug abuse. She might not get back on the meth, but the pattern of abuse will likely persist, until such a time as she recognizes it for what it is and gets help.
posted by TravellingDen at 3:37 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to come in and be another voice for Smart Recovery. It's great for people who can't deal with the AA/NA dogma.

They have online meetings multiple times a day, and they're usually run by professionals who are good at keeping to the Smart Recovery core concepts and keeping people on track. Maybe you want to offer to do an "online" meeting with her?
posted by kinsey at 6:40 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some people cannot be benefited by ANY group recovery system, regardless of the methodology, because they cannot relate to others in the groups they encounter or, like your friend, the religion aspect/technique/ideology rings false to them.

In my experience (as a recovered bulimic and lifetime of ADHD with periods of anxiety and depression - and yes, food is a substance I have abused), finding a good, one-on-one therapist with an expertise in meth addiction specifically might be the one thing that could help her most. Finding someone who understood eating disorders helped me stop needing to harm myself, to seek neverending escapism, to realize I am enough as-is.

Individual therapy options could include such variable approaches as CBT, traditional talk therapy supplanted by a medically supervised antidepressant, or having an extensive physical workup and analysis done at a hospital by a psychologist to assess underlying mental health or trauma issues. In young women, comorbidity of some variety is practically assured (read this PDF - 60% of female substance abusers your friend's age are suffering from a variety of other underlying conditions, whether they realize it or not).

Disclaimer: I was married to a meth addict and nothing changed, no matter what I did to help him. We did trial separation, I paid for couples therapy, I did therapy for myself alone, I begged, pleaded, threatened, cajoled, confronted his friends, searched the house from top to bottom DAILY to find and destroy drugs and drug paraphernalia, I got him literature and had recovered addicts speak with him, I offered to take a second job to pay for top-notch rehab and never breathe a word to his parents... he lost his job. He was arrested. He was evicted. He lost virtually every lifelong friend. He accrued massive, massive debt.

He did not stop.

A year after our divorce was final, his parents asked me to help them perform an intervention. It was unsuccessful.

Several years later he is now happily re-employed, his legal and financial obligations are paid off, his life is back on track and he is expecting his first child with a lovely woman. Not all meth users are that lucky because it changes brain chemistry PERMANENTLY. I am THRILLED he is okay, but I honestly had nothing to do with it. He did it himself.

Perhaps your ladyfriend just has to explore her own boundaries until she is sure, internally and finally, that she is DONE with drugs. Quitting one thing you are addicted to does not necessarily mean you will become addicted to EVERYTHING you try. Perhaps she is testing herself. She may be trying to prove to herself with all these other substances that she CAN be a casual user, without relapsing or repeating her addiction journey. Also, relapsing at some point is virtually inevitable for EVERY recovered addict, statistically.

Perhaps she is addicted to self-harm and risk. Regardless, you are not her and cannot know what will and will not work. I'm telling you this because you're going to get frustrated at some point because she isn't doing what you think is right and that's why you should try BlahLaLa's suggestion first if you are strongly affected by her behavior.

That way, you'll have a support network in place if she chooses to disregard you and you'll be okay with not being able to fix her. Good luck, whatever path you take. I'm sorry.

TL&DR: Your friend is going through more than you can genuinely understand. But I've tried to explain the myriad possibilities, some of which may be more helpful than others.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:42 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer:
"Also, total abstinence for life is not the only way: just because NA types freak out about the fact that she's done drugs again doesn't mean that she's inevitably going to fall back into addiction. "

While technically true - that's a rather dangerous way to approach things. It's far more likely that she will fall back into addictive behaviour than not.

This is wrong: it's true of people who have been to addiction treatment, but not true of addicts "in the wild" AKA community samples. The cynical argue this means that treatment makes people worse—which is undoubtedly the case for abusive, harsh treatment—but mainly, what it means is that treatment providers typically see the worst cases where moderation does tend to be unlikely.

It sounds like this woman has not been through treatment and therefore was not repeatedly told she has a chronic, lifelong illness with a 90% chance of relapse (another thing that's actually counterproductive about what is done in treatment is potentially creating self fulfilling prophecies by telling people they are "powerless" and that the disease is necessarily chronic).

If you look at the statistics from the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, you can see this represented every year in the contrast between the numbers of "ever used" "used in the last month" "used daily," which show that there are massive numbers of people who once used even drugs like heroin or cocaine regularly and no longer do so—and those numbers are pretty consistent and far higher than the number of treatment slots that exist.

Also, the idea that "meth changes brain chemistry permanently" is wrong as well if by this you mean that it produces lasting cognitive impairment or permanent damage to pleasure systems. If this were the case, we'd have lots of issues due to the large number of people who take *prescribed* methamphetamine and similar drugs for ADHD and recovery from methamphetamine would actually be harder than for other drugs. It isn't according to the research: just like the last drug of the minute—crack—it's not worse than anything that came before, it's just that the media has to claim that in order to call its coverage "news."

PubMed is your friend on addictions, don't rely on claims reported in the media. Unless they're from me of course ;-)
posted by Maias at 7:23 AM on April 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

So, these cites from PubMed showing the effects of methamphetamine on the brain's dopamine receptors and changes in striatal G-proteins aren't good evidence that the damage can range from long-term to permanent, Maias?

I'm not basing that remark off the media claims, I'm basing that assertion on having a parent who is a drug counselor in a Federal prison who's seen some of his prisoners show no improvement in cognitive or motor function over a 20-year span. Now, I agree that's not necessarily "permanently" but if it's 1/3 or more of a person's life, what are the odds of reversal? Apologies if there are studies showing treatments that reverse the damage to the brain's neural pathways that I simply haven't found yet - I'm not in the medical field, and I defer to those who are.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:11 AM on May 1, 2011

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