An essential part of any medication assisted therapy program is to find support systems to help you in the recovery process. It’s important to be with people who understand addiction and the problems that come with it.

While many people are familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Medication Assisted Recovery Anonymous (MARA) is a relatively new 12-step support group and often misunderstood. 

As the MARA website states: “Many addicts and alcoholics that are utilizing evidence-based science to aid in their recovery sometimes feel unwelcome.” 

Because most anonymous groups advocate for total abstinence, the use of medication to overcome an opioid addiction can be hard for some people to accept. Before we look at that, let’s start with anonymous groups as a whole and the part they play in addiction recovery.

Are Anonymous Groups Necessary for Addiction Recovery?

First things first: Anonymous groups are not treatment, and they’re not for everyone. 

People in anonymous support groups are at various stages of recovery. Groups are facilitated by a group member and made up of other recovering addicts sharing their own experience, strength, and hope with each other. And unlike counseling, anonymous support groups are free, with a few allowing members to donate money if they can. For some people, anonymous groups are the only place they receive acceptance and support.

Two other opportunities for support while in medication assisted treatment are individual and group counseling. These options provide psychoeducation and help with processing life problems. In these instances, other group members are your peers in recovery, and the groups are facilitated by a licensed counselor.

Support is a vital part of addiction recovery and wherever it’s found — counseling, anonymous groups, church, family or community resources — it’s important that it works for you.

The Differences Among MARA, AA, and NA

All anonymous groups are focused on helping individuals who seek to live a sober lifestyle. However, the most well-known 12-step groups, AA and NA, are specific in their requirements that members must either be an alcoholic or a drug addict with no overlap. Both groups do allow nonalcoholics or nonaddicts to attend open meetings to observe about the recovery process.

While some people believe both organizations to be one and the same, they are separate entities and serve entirely different purposes. 

In AA and NA, there is a stigma regarding medication assisted treatment. We often hear complaints from our patients that the AA or NA groups they tried did not accept them because they’re on methadone or Suboxone. For these groups, the patient is still using a substance, therefore they’re not “really sober”. 

Lack of education is the real issue separating MAT patients from AA and NA. They likely don’t understand how the medication works and haven’t seen the miraculous recovery of thousands of people who were suffering from addiction and even near death.

It also speaks to the larger misunderstanding that most people have about opioid replacement therapy and is why it’s important for groups like Medication Assisted Recovery Anonymous to exist. While it’s necessary to respect the purpose of individual groups, it’s also vital to recognize that the addiction landscape has grown and not every addict fits into one box.

Choosing the Right Medication Assisted Recovery Anonymous Group

The first step in finding the right group for you is to go to meetings. Most communities have recovery support group meetings and meeting times and locations can be found on any anonymous group’s website. If there is no meeting close to you, then why not start one? The MARA website can also help you start a group and be listed on their website.

Meetings can vary greatly just by going at a different time or day to the same group. A different meeting time will provide a new crowd and energy. Most group members will attend the same meeting consistently, so if something doesn’t feel right, try different meetings until you find one you feel comfortable with. 

It’s important for you to find a group of supporters who you trust, be open with and who will be there through your recovery journey.

What Happens After Medication Assisted Treatment?

Recovery doesn’t stop after completing medication assisted treatment. It’s managed daily just like diabetes or any other medical condition. 

Think of it like being in remission. Addiction can reactivate if we do not take precautions to prevent a return to using drugs.

We all need a support system, whether we are in recovery or not. Groups like Medication Assisted Recovery Anonymous are a great place to get that support, and patients are encouraged to continue attending even after they complete treatment. 

Another reason we think support group attendance is important after treatment is completed is because someone needs to be there for the newly recovering people. If everyone quit attending meetings once they complete treatment, then the support group would only consist of newcomers who have no experience in recovery.  

Remember, we all need support as human beings. Allow people to be supportive. It may help the other person just as much as it helps you.