A 12-step group that is lesser known than those frequently used as referrals for those in early recovery, Pills Anonymous is a concept that goes far back into the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. While pills are generally considered to be narcotics–and many of those who suffer from the ravages of this addiction are comfortable with the recovery in NA or AA–there is a subtle distinction in the type of addiction found with prescription medications.
The early beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous were fraught with addiction to medications. The co-founder of AA, Dr. Bob Smith, was addicted equally to alcohol and prescription medications. This is where some of AA’s early foundation was laid. There was little discrepancy for the early members between those who abused pills along with their alcohol and those who did not. Some of the early literature and stories in AA are about the two. One of the most recognized members of AA, Dr. Paul O. was very active in attempting to begin a program for those who were addicted to pills. He himself wrote, in his story, which is a foundation story in AA’s “Big Book,” about his addiction to prescription medication. The first title of his story, “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict,” later changed when the fourth edition of the book was published in 2001.
Pills Anonymous records its beginning at about the year 1972. A long-running group in New York has the claim as being the first. This is at about the same time that Dr. Paul O. worked to form groups as well, probably in his home in Southern California. The formation of Pills Anonymous as a nonprofit corporation, housed near Phoenix, AZ, was accomplished in 2008. Since that time, literature has been approved and distributed, stating the purpose of Pills Anonymous, sample formats for meetings, and other literature to separate PA from AA, its closest “parent.”
Pills Anonymous began using the literature and format of AA, as well as the text, Alcoholics Anonymous, otherwise known as the “Big Book.” Today, there is a text being written for Pills Anonymous to deal with the specifics of their brand of recovery.
One of the phenomena of the 21st century is the sheer volume of prescription medications being abused at this time. For those who are striving to recover from this addiction, the subtle differences between the recovery programs (via 12 Steps), they can access are enough to discourage them from attempting. While AA has strong recovery and definite fellowship potential, the members discourage talk about drugs. NA is specifically geared toward drug addiction, but many of those who are seeking recovery from pills do not relate to the recovery from street drugs and the differences in lifestyles they encounter in
Pills Anonymous has the potential to fill the need for those who abuse prescription medications and offer them a way out of addiction, into recovery. At this time, there are 65 meetings listed for the US, with one Skype meeting in Bulgaria. Most of these meetings are in Arizona and Southern California. The website has instructions on how to begin a meeting for groups that may feel the need to do so. They also have a list of the meetings currently underway, as well as other useful information that will assist those who are either looking for an existing meeting or just wish to read their literature.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.