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How AA’s 12 steps can help combat addiction in the workplace

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is globally known for its 12-step recovery process. Today, many other associations, such as Narcotics Anonymous, use these guidelines to address addictions.

The UK’s latest drug and alcohol misuse statistics renewed the focus on the implementation and efficacy of this 12-step treatment approach. According to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, nearly 290,600 adults contacted drug and alcohol services between April 2022 and March 2023.

Of these, around 137,700 entered addiction treatment programmes. Almost 50% sought help for the misuse of opiates, and, according to the UK government, this remains the largest substance group.

The NHS spends approximately £3.5bn per year on alcohol misuse treatment in England alone. The government estimates that this annual cost to society amounts to roughly £21bn.

Healthcare specialists, including psychiatrists, indicate that alcohol and drug misuse rates are still increasing despite funding and treatment initiatives. Although the efficacy of AA’s 12 steps is widely acknowledged, experts believe that they are still misunderstood as a broad-spectrum aid to addiction. 

12 Steps: more than an abstinence tool

Professionals have pointed out that different addictions are often related or that one fuels the onset of another. In mental healthcare, psychiatrists and other relevant workers observe correlations or interrelationships between drug, alcohol, sex or screen addictions, for example. These occurrences are typed as cross-addictions.

Healthcare experts also believe that in many instances, addictions are manifestations of core issues such as obsessive-compulsive behaviour disorders or trauma. Reports indicate that statistics, such as an 80% increase in drug-related deaths in the last decade, support these postulations.

Alcohol and drug addictions affect more than just the person misusing the substances. These problems spill over into crimes such as shoplifting and burglaries and impact families, communities and society as a whole.

Apart from helping people abstain from substances, the 12-step approach also cultivates a way of life by altering harmful behaviour patterns. It is widely accessible and does not cost a penny.

Many people with drug or alcohol addictions maintain routines, such as going to work, and do not register on treatment radars. By creating awareness of the 12 steps in workplaces, employers can reach workers who battle with alcohol, drug and possibly other addictions.

Incorporating the 12 steps with workplace drug and alcohol testing

Studies show that the AA 12 steps not only address an addiction or cross-addictions but are also effective as cognitive behavioural therapy and emotional support. When employers create awareness about the 12 steps, they open doors via which employees can access group therapy and a holistic approach to dealing with addiction.

This can be done by combining workplace drug and alcohol testing with education or awareness sessions on the 12-step approach. Matrix Diagnostics offers innovative onsite screening kits that effectively test a broad scope of substances, including psychoactive drugs.

Employers can either introduce the 12 steps when an employee tests positive or facilitate group discussions on workplace drug testing days.

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