A First Description of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous Members in Greece: Prior Treatment History and Opinions about Professionals
Flora, Katerina, Raftopoulos, Antonis, Contemporary Drug Problems
The main aim of this article is to present some of the basic findings of research intended to give a current general picture of the groups of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in Greece. Specifically, this article presents the facts concerning the help the members receive from the group and from other sources, their unmet needs and their attitudes towards professionals in the field of addiction. Also, we compare these findings with equivalent facts from other studies. Our research was descriptive rather than testing hypotheses, since there was no similar previous research in Greece.
The concept of self-help is connected mostly or exclusively with the personal sense of responsibility, which is the activation and utilization of "your own means" towards needs relating to the handling of personal problems. The term "self-help groups" refers to groups of people with common or similar problems, as for example diabetics, alcoholics, addicted, mentally ill, or to psychotherapeutic groups that focus on personal growth through the common working-out of experiences and solution of the problems of fellow-sufferers (Bairaktaris 1994). The aim of the self-help group is not only to offer help, but to benefit from it, as well. (Riessman 1997).
There are other definitions of the basic concept of self-help and self-help groups, which may contribute to a better understanding of this field. According to the definition accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO), self-help refers to formal or informal "created social groups" in the frame of health care that find a common denominator in new forms of dealing with problems, with citizen autonomy, and with humanization of health care. Self-help groups, in this frame, are part of a wider phenomenon of alternative forms of care. The term "self-help" is used more widely than the word "mutual help," but the latter may be preferable because it put more emphasis on the mutuality than on self-interest (Kickbusch & Hatch 1983).
On the other hand, Katz and Bender formulated the most widely used definition of self-help groups: self-help groups are small, voluntary structures for the mutual help and the fulfillment of a specific purpose. They are usually created by people who unite with the purpose of offering help for the satisfaction of a common need, coping with a common difficulty or problems that threaten their lives, and to achieve desired social and/or personal change. The founders and the members of such groups believe that their needs are not satisfied or can't be satisfied by the existing social structures. Self-help groups emphasize direct social interaction and the assumption of personal responsibility by the members. They often offer material help as well as emotional support. They are often directed towards the cause of the problems and project an ideology or values through which the members may acquire a better awareness of their personal identity (Kickbusch & Hatch 1983).
Official information about the beginning of AA and NA in Greece has not previously been published. From our contact with long-term members of the groups, we collected some information. According to them, in about 1986-1987 soldiers at American bases in Greece, having experience with AA in their own country, created the first AA group in Greece. The same sources state that at the beginning of the 1980s an AA group was created in connection with the therapeutic program "18 Ano." Later, according to the same information, Greek people with problems of abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs followed their example. We should mention that the first meetings were English-speaking, until the basic core of Greek groups was created. NA and AA groups have operated occasionally in several towns in Greece. Unlike the permanent groups in Athens and Thessaloniki, the groups in smaller towns are unstable in their functioning. For that reason, we didn't involve all of them in the research, but only those which, according to available sources (members, the internet), have a more stable existence. …