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Pills Anonymous (PA) – 12 Step Program

What is Pills Anonymous and when did it begin?

Pills Anonymous is a 12-step program that was created for individuals who suffer from prescription drug addiction, specifically for people who want to recover from pill addiction. The group has no affiliation with Alcoholics Anonymous but utilizes the same 12-step recovery process and for a long time, utilized the “Big Book” as well. Because the 12 steps have been so successful for so many other self-help groups, Pills Anonymous focuses on members admitting their powerlessness over their pill addiction and then finding ways to cope with the other problems that stem from their addiction, such as low self esteem, anxiety and depression.

A lot about the history of Pills Anonymous is unknown. The most known information about the organization goes back to one of the longest running groups, which was created in 1972. Dr. Paul O., one of the original members of the group, did talk about forming the organization in the 1970s, and he was a longtime member of Alcoholics Anonymous. In 2008, Pills Anonymous was officially incorporated as a charitable, nonprofit organization, after holding two conferences that year. Once delegates accepted the 12 steps and 12 traditions of the program, it was agreed that it would run similar to other 12-step organizations. In 2013, the first piece of literature was published for Pills Anonymous titled “There is a Solution: The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Pills Anonymous.”

How does Pills Anonymous work?

It can be difficult for individuals to identify whether or not they have a problem when it comes to prescription drugs, mainly because since they come from a doctor, it feels like it shouldn’t necessarily be considered addiction. The fact of the matter is, pill addiction can be just as severe and dangerous as an alcohol or illicit drug addiction. Pills Anonymous gives individuals the opportunity to find a support group that will help them recover from this addiction, which will only progressively get worse until the recovery process begins. While members are encouraged to remain open and honest about their problems, feelings and emotions, existing members can help newcomers find solutions to their problems by sharing their own experience, strength and hope.

Although attending meetings regularly and reading the available literature is beneficial for members, one of the most crucial parts of the program is obtaining a sponsor. A sponsor is a longtime member with clean time under their belt, that is actively working the steps of the program or has done so in the past. They are there to help guide their sponsee through working the 12 steps and can understand what kinds of issues are being dealt with, since they, too, have been in their shoes before.

While a sponsor may have availability all day long to help individuals when they need it the most, whether it’s finding meetings, answering the phone or simply answering questions, it’s important to remember that a sponsor is not a doctor or therapist. They are simply individuals who share similar pasts with other members and try to help them through their own recovery process by offering their suggestions, experiences and tools of recovery. Members who obtain a sponsor can have someone to personally confide in, as well as utilize their knowledge and help them understand what the program of Pills Anonymous fully entails. Having someone who has been where they’ve been and will be completely honest will help them work the steps successfully and begin their own recovery from pill addiction.

Why does Pills Anonymous work?

Before joining the fellowship of Pills Anonymous, many members feel isolated and alone when it comes to their prescription drug addiction. Many individuals have tried to quit on their own and failed, leaving them suffering in feelings of desperation, depression and emptiness. In the rooms of Pills Anonymous, members are never alone. Attending meetings and building a network with other individuals in recovery can help individuals end their obsession with pills and start living their fullest lives.

Those who suffer from pill addiction have felt hopeless, sometimes at the end of their rope, trying to manage their pill addiction on their own. Pills Anonymous emphasizes the fact that pill addiction cannot be cured; it is an illness that needs to be arrested, and cannot be overcome on willpower alone. Once an individual has made the decision to begin attending meetings and working the steps of the program, they will begin to realize that quitting pills is only part of the recovery process. Finding ways to cope with problems, stress and other behavioral issues that stem from pill addiction is another way to begin living a happier and healthier life.

Once members put an honest effort into working their program, they will begin to feel more peace and serenity in their lives. Surrounding themselves with others who have been there before, experienced similar problems and have recovered successfully will fill them with a new sense of hope that they can recover as well. With the help of meetings, a sponsor, a higher power and working the steps of a program, members will be able to find solutions to problems that they could not solve on their own.

Common Questions about Pills Anonymous

Does Pills Anonymous cost money?

Pills Anonymous has no dues, fees or costs for membership. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using pills. The organization is self-supporting through their own contributions, so outside contributions are always declined. For members who are willing and able to give what they can, when they can, baskets are available during meetings for contributions. Other contributions can be made to the group by purchasing available literature, but there is never a requirement for members to give money of any kind. -pillsanonymous.org

Is Pills Anonymous religious?

Although God is mentioned in the steps, in meetings and throughout the program, the fellowship of Pills Anonymous is not religious in any form. The program is a spiritual one, not a religious one. Members are encouraged to find their own concept of a higher power; something or someone that can help restore them to sanity. While some members call their higher power God, some don’t define one at all. It is simply another way to understand that members alone cannot manage their addiction.

How do I find a Pills Anonymous meeting?

There are meetings throughout the world and the United States, so members are able to find something local to them by looking at the meeting directory page, located here. Because many face-to-face meetings are unavailable, it is important to call ahead. If there is not a physical meeting nearby, there are many virtual meetings available, which can be located here.

How do I know if I am a pill addict?

While Pills Anonymous meetings and existing members can help individuals identify some of their problems with pills, it is not their job to decide whether or not they are suffering from pill addiction. Before attending meetings, future members are encouraged to answer questions from the questionnaire and decide on their own if they have a problem with prescription drugs. The group suggests that a “yes” answer to 3 or more questions may mean that Pills Anonymous is the right place for you.

Has your doctor, spouse or anyone else expressed concern about your use of medications?

Have you ever decided to stop taking pills only to find yourself taking them again contrary to your earlier decision?

Have you ever felt remorse or concern about taking pills?

Has your efficiency or ambition decreased since taking pills?

Have you established a supply for a purse or pocket or to hide away in case of emergency?

Have you ever been treated by a physician or hospital for excessive use of pills (whether or not in combination with other substances)?

Have you changed doctors or pharmacies for the purpose of maintaining your supply?

Have you received the same medication from two or more physicians or pharmacists at approximately the same time?

Have you ever been turned down for a refill?

Have you ever taken other people’s pills with or without their permission or obtained them illegally?

Have you taken the same pain or sleep medication for a prolonged period of time only to find you still have the same symptoms?

Have you ever informed your physician as to which pill works best at which dosage and had them adjust the prescription to your recommendations?

Have you increased the dosage, strength or frequency of your pills over the past months or years?

Are your pills quite important to you; e.g. do you worry about refills long before running out?

Do you become annoyed or uncomfortable when others talk about your use of pills?

Have you or anyone else noticed a change of personality when you take your pills, or when you stop taking them?

Have you ever taken your medication before you had the associated symptom?

Have you ever been embarrassed by your behavior when under the influence of your pills?

Do you ever sneak or hide your pills?

Do you find it impossible to stop or to go for a prolonged period without your pills?


12 Steps of Pills Anonymous

1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction to pills and all other mind-altering substances —that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

4. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.

5. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

6. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

7. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

8. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

9. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

10. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

11. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

12. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


12 Traditions of Pills Anonymous (PA)

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon P.A. unity.

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using pills.

4. Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other groups or P.A. as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the addict who still suffers.

6. A P.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the P.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every P.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Pills Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. P.A., as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Pills Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the P.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, television and films.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.


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