In his latest contribution to the academic literature, William L. White and colleagues turn their focus on 12-Step participation among patients in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT). Rates of self-reported Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) attendance were very high; however, participants frequently reported that their MMT status prevented them from taking part in many of the "key ingredients" of the groups that most members take for granted. When asked about the experience, nearly half of all respondents who had attended NA or AA reported that they had "received negative comments about methadone use" and nearly "a quarter (24.4%) reported having had a serious problem within NA or AA related to their status as a methadone patient."
The following table from the report details the "frequency with which respondents faced particular challenges":
Table 4: NA and AA Responses to MMT Patient Status NA AA
Response to MM Patient Status: (n=228) (n=142)
Received negative comments about methadone use 43.0% 45.1%
Were pressured to reduce the dose of methadone 21.9% 23.2%
Were pressured to stop taking methadone 32.9% 34.5%
Were denied the right to speak at a meeting because of being
in methadone treatment 14.5% 14.1%
Were denied the right to become a sponsor because of being 8.8% 9.9%
in methadone treatment
White and colleagues implemented this small study at not-for-profit opioid treatment program (OTP) in the Northeastern US. A total of 322 respondents answered a 53-question survey about their participation in recovery support groups. Of the 322, 259 (80.4%) reported a primary affiliation with a recovery support group. Of these, 88.8% reported it to be in some way a 12-Step group. Importantly, 66% of respondents reported past-year NA/AA participation, with 88-89% reporting the group was "helpful".
Despite these figures, the authors found MMT patients had low rates of participation in the "key ingredients" that seem to be critical influencers of long-term recovery outcomes: having a home group (50%), having a sponsor (26%), sponsoring others (13%), attending 12-Step social events (23%), and active step work (21%).
Anecdotally, we see a lot of patients at Alltyr who have a hard time finding a place in the local 12-Step scene. We even began compiling a list of medication-friendly meetings in the Twin Cities as we learned about them, but the stigma associated with maintenance is still prevalent. Could it be that we are on the verge of another breakthrough in medication acceptance? After all, there was a time when you weren't considered "sober" if you were on antidepressant or antipsychotic medications (but now, as Dr W likes to say, you're more likely to be referred to the psychiatrist by your sponsor than by anyone else). We would be interested to hear reader stories about this experience - or opinions on the topic. Are things changing - or not?
See the full paper by White, et al., here: http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/2013%20Co-participation%20in%2012-Step%20Groups%20and%20Methadone%20Maintenance.pdf