Demographic preferences related to the addicts' drug of choice has led to the creation of Cocaine Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous and Marijuana Anonymous. Behavioral issues such as compulsion for, and/or addiction to, gambling, crime, food, sex, hoarding, debting and work are addressed in fellowships such as Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous and Debtors Anonymous.
Denial is one of the biggest obstacles to getting help for alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds many ways to rationalize drinking, even when the consequences are obvious. By keeping you from looking honestly at your behavior and its negative effects, denial also exacerbates alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships.
Alcohol addiction is a gradual process that occurs within the human brain. When alcohol is consumed, it alters the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, mainly gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, and dopamine. GABA monitors and controls a person's impulsivity, and frequently drinking copious amounts of alcohol alters this chemical's production, often making people more impulsive and less aware of what they are doing. Dopamine is one of the chemicals in the brain that, when released, causes pleasurable feelings like happiness, joy, or even euphoria. As more and more alcohol is consumed on a frequent basis, the brain begins to grow accustomed to this chemical imbalance. If an alcoholic tries to stop drinking, then the brain is deprived of the alcohol's effect, which results in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking, tremors, or even hallucination.
In some ways, the championing of anonymity has been AA’s blessing and curse. It not only protects the privacy of the people it seeks to help (and those who seek it for help), it also protects the organization at large from public relations and morale damage if a high-profile member were to relapse. In the more than 75 years since Alcoholics Anonymous formed, NPR notes that “no one knows how exactly it works.”
Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery). SMART Recovery is a network of support groups that advocate the use of scientific research in addiction recovery. SMART Recovery supports the use of prescription medications and behavioral therapies in the treatment of substance abuse. Since scientific knowledge is constantly evolving, the SMART Recovery program is also constantly evolving. The organization has face-to-face meetings across the United States and daily online meetings.
The purpose of the Central Office is to receive, distribute and follow up on calls for help, to answer inquiries about AA, to cooperate with local public information committees, maintain information about local hospitals and recovery facilities for alcoholics, to provide local AA meeting lists, to provide a newsletter, and to order, sell and distribute AA literature.
AA has remained mostly unchanged since it was founded. Obviously, the world is not the same as it was in 1935, as well as addiction, how we see it, and how we treat it. While newer sober support programs like SMART Recovery make it a point to keep up with the latest in the science of recovery treatment, AA and its 12 Steps have relied on the same “one-size-fits-all” techniques for almost 80 years, techniques that may no longer be as effective in today’s world.
ASAM’s definition of addiction document concludes that “treatment of addition saves lives,” and it points out that “in some cases of addiction, medication management can improve treatment outcomes,” and that “in most cases of addiction, the integration of psychosocial rehabilitation and ongoing care with evidence-based pharmacological therapy provides the best results.” Much of “what’s new” in the professional treatment of addiction in the past two decades has involved new pharmacological therapies that have been brought into the marketplace. But psychosocial interventions, which are “not as new,” are the foundation of the treatment most persons receive when they seek assistance from an addiction treatment professional or agency.
The term alcoholism is commonly used amongst laypeople, but the word is poorly defined. The WHO calls alcoholism "a term of long-standing use and variable meaning", and use of the term was disfavored by a 1979 WHO expert committee. The Big Book (from Alcoholics Anonymous) states that once a person is an alcoholic, they are always an alcoholic, but does not define what is meant by the term alcoholic in this context. In 1960, Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), said:
We have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments, or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. We did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. We always called it an illness, or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.
Successful long-term recovery is more likely with longer involvement in the treatment process. Wyoming Recovery offers weekly continuing care sessions for the months after completion of residential or Intensive Outpatient levels of care. In these groups, graduates address various issues of sober living in the real world setting, helping to reduce the risk of relapse.
Twelve-step methods have been adapted to address a wide range of alcoholism, substance-abuse and dependency problems. Over 200 self-help organizations—often known as fellowships—with a worldwide membership of millions—now employ twelve-step principles for recovery. Narcotics Anonymous was formed by addicts who did not relate to the specifics of alcohol dependency.