Addiction Recovery 2.0

Dennis Faas's picture

Major recovery organizations have been using the Internet to help individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. An increasing number of support groups are springing up all over the web with one goal: to provide online, 24/7 assistance to people recovering from some form of substance abuse.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost 2 million people this year will find themselves entering some kind of rehabilitation for abuse of various drugs or alcohol. In the past 70 years or so, these alcoholics and addicts would have left various rehabilitation institutions to then begin a lifetime of meetings in church basements with fellow addicts or alcoholics, there to find the support and encouragement to continue their life clean and sober.

Now, the war against drugs moves online.

Typically, the online venues focus on the 12-step recovery approach -- the recovery program outlined by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's a popular program and, it seems, there is now a 12-step program tied to every possible substance abuse or behavior, including Nicotine Anonymous. Instead of holding daily or weekly meetings however, more and more of these 12-step groups are turning their attention to providing online chat, web forum, and list server-based recovery groups. The Internet is being used to connect similarly afflicted individuals and groups from all over the world. Over the world wide web, recovery meetings are no longer of an hour's duration in a church basement, groups now meet for 24 hours a day with members checking in and out at will or as needed.

Alcoholics Anonymous, the oldest of the recovery groups, now offers meetings using email list servers, VoIP, and chat. AA provides online meetings in 33 different countries and hosts them in more than 10 different languages!

Narcotics Anonymous, has more than 20 internationally accessible email meetings and Cocaine Anonymous offers 6 internationally accessible email meetings.

Of course, for every benefit of online meetings, there are also some risks. The use of chat protocols, for example, opens up a portal to the user's PC that may expose them to risk of being "hacked." Email-based list servers also pose the problem of how to remain "anonymous" when the entire virtual room can see your email address.

There are also hazards from various unscrupulous recovery organizations that prey on individuals in early recovery or their families. Over the Internet, they seem like legitimate organizations, but they are not always. As with most Internet-based activities, various fraud, email harvesting, and identity theft schemes abound. But even in those cases, Internet-based solutions emerge. One organization, All Addictions Anonymous Watch, for example, focuses on keeping a watchful eye on some of the less scrupulous efforts to exploit recovering individuals.

Exploiting Internet technology may prove to be a great boon to people trying to shake addictions. It has truly become Addiction Recovery 2.0. Nonetheless, family members and recovering individuals would be wise to stick to the best known recovery organizations (e.g AA, NA, CA) and, if they choose to participate online, they should get a Yahoo!, Gmail, or Hotmail mailbox using a pseudonym to keep themselves truly "anonymous".

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