Can Medicine Replace Alcoholics Anonymous for Sober Living?

Alcohol Anonymous

Can Medicine Replace Alcoholics Anonymous for Sober Living?

Table of Contents


Anyone who has attempted recovery using the Alcoholic Anonymous 12-Step method will say it isn’t easy. As such, taking alcoholism medications to curb cravings and manage withdrawals — as a replacement for AA— can seem like the ideal choice. However, the choice isn’t clear-cut. Oftentimes, as with alcoholism medications, the valuable support system that AA provides is an integral part of sober living.

What Is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as AA, was started in 1935 in Ohio by founder and alcoholic, Bill Wilson. Along with other members, Wilson created a non-denominational group based on the belief of a personal idea of god or “higher power.”1

With the help of other members, Wilson wrote the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism in 1939. Known today as the “The Big Book,” it would become one of the best-selling books of all time and the cornerstone for AA. (2) The Big Book offers detailed retellings of people’s experiences with alcoholism, allowing those struggling with alcohol abuse to recognize their behaviors in others.

AA’s Big Book also introduced a series of solutions to alcoholism, which evolved into AA’s Twelve Step program. The program would go on to become the foundational structure for many addiction recoveries and sober living programs throughout the world.2

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Other Sober Living Programs

The first year after recovery is often the most difficult. Changing old behaviors and creating a new sober lifestyle can be disorienting. A sober living program helps transition people from addiction treatment to living independently, helping to make a sober lifestyle less challenging.

Sober living programs provide structure and support, within a drug and alcohol-free environment. They also offer more independence and autonomy than rehabilitation treatment programs. There are a number of sober living program options, with another popular program being SMART Recovery.4

SMART Recovery is the most well-known alternative to AA. Although SMART Recovery shares similar elements with Alcoholics Anonymous, its main difference is where it assigns the locus of control. In SMART Recovery, instead of a belief in an external higher power, the power to overcome addiction is internal.4

How Do AA Meetings Work?

AA meetings are free and easy to attend. There is a network of scheduled Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to offer support to people in recovery. Most of these meetings are “open,” meaning anyone can attend. A few meetings may be reserved for Alcoholics Anonymous members or people who are newly recovered. Some meetings, called Al-Anon, are for the loved ones of people who struggle with addiction.

The most common format is an ID meeting, where people are free to talk about their experiences with addiction and recovery. There are no obligations to attend further meetings, participation is free, and everyone is anonymous.

The Benefits of AA Meetings

One of the mainstays of AA is the belief in a support system. Recovery is a rough road, and AA emphasizes the idea that recovery is made easier by establishing emotional connections for support. The Alcoholics Anonymous environment aims to create a sense of community and acceptance, while fostering accountability and responsibility.5

The connections created through AA enable people to share positive coping strategies, affirm their strengths, and find others who can help during times of crisis. AA also provides resources like Al-Anon for caregivers and loved ones of those who struggle with addiction. A readily available, anonymous, and free way to discover help, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings​​ can be found through the AA app or website.6

Alcoholism Medications to Help in Sober Living

Some people find that alcoholism medications provide a smoother path to recovery. Others choose to forgo medications altogether. When it comes to addiction treatment and recovery, there are a variety of treatment options.

Whether or not an individual chooses to use medication to aid them in recovery is a personal choice. What works for one person may not work for others, and there isn’t one defined path to success.

The following are alcoholism medications used most often for addiction treatment.

Disulfiram, also known as Antabuse, blocks a specific enzyme related to the processing of alcohol. Blocking the enzyme causes unwanted side effects whenever alcohol is consumed, including racing heartbeat, nausea, thirst, dizziness, and chest pain. These unpleasant side effects discourage alcohol use and help manage cravings.7

Naltrexone is used to curb both alcohol and opiate addiction. A naltrexone injection reduces the urge to consume alcohol and can help someone stop drinking altogether.8

Campral restores the balance of chemicals in the brain, helping keep people who are addicted to alcohol from drinking. Typically used by recently recovered individuals, Campral helps manage the urge to drink.9

Is Medicine More Effective than AA Meetings?

There’s no magic bullet or pill that can eliminate addiction. Very often, it takes a combination of treatments and multiple recovery attempts to maintain sobriety. The effectiveness of AA meetings or medications depends on the individual and their circumstances. To maintain sobriety, the key is often a mix of interventions and lifestyle changes including:

  • Mental health counseling or therapy
  • A focus on health and fitness
  • Building and nurturing positive and supportive relationships
  • Finding healthy leisure activities and hobbies

AA meetings and medications can only work when a person is willing to utilize them. Sobriety is not an easy road, but the journey is made easier with a healthy and positive support system.



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