Narcotics Anonymous (NA) was founded in the early 1950s as an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Although the organization grew slowly at first, by 1983, NA had spread to over a dozen countries and had nearly 3,000 meetings worldwide.Today, NA offers over 63,000 weekly meetings in 132 countries, and has literature available in at least 45 languages.
The purpose of these meetings is to offer a similarly supportive healing environment for people addicted to any substance, not just alcohol. NA strives to be as inclusive as possible – there are no requirements for membership other than the desire to stop using drugs and alcohol, with a goal of complete abstinence. No fees are required. Members attend regular meetings where they can share their stories, hear the stories of other people like them, and gain social support. During sharing, members are discouraged from “crosstalk,” or responding to what other members have said. Instead, they are encouraged to share experiences of their own. New members may find a sponsor – a more experienced member of the program who can act as a mentor and guide.
NA isn’t therapy – there won’t be counselors or therapists at meetings (unless they are there as members themselves). Instead, it provides a form of ongoing care called self-help, in which members learn to manage their addiction moving forward. The experience of “working the program” is meant to be transformative, involving a spiritual awakening that provides an internal motivation to abstain from substance use.
Most people who attend NA do so out of a genuine desire to get better. Narcotics Anonymous reports that a survey of its members found that only 11 percent attended their first NA meeting on account of a court order.
Principles of Narcotics Anonymous
NA groups are designed to be nonprofit and without any religious or political affiliation. This keeps their message focused on helping people recover from addiction and maintain abstinence. In NA programs, members go through a 12-Step recovery process. Themes of the 12 Steps include:
- Admitting that addiction has taken over your life, that you’ve lost control over your substance use, and that abstinence is the only answer
- Surrendering to a greater power that can provide the impetus to recover from addiction where you couldn’t on your own. For some people, this higher power is God, but for others, it’s the group or the program. NA is not a religious program, but a spiritual one.
- Self-reflecting on the flaws that drive substance abuse and striving to improve them
- Making amends to everyone who has been harmed by your substance use
- A spiritual awakening in which the message of recovery can be carried to other addicts
As part of this process, members may find a sponsor or may in turn sponsor other members when they have progressed far enough in recovery. This provides a one-on-one connection that offers recovering addicts a direct line of support. This relationship tends to be less of a typical friendship and more of a spiritual relationship, based on a common need to get well.
Another emphasis of NA groups is service, in which members organize to try to spread NA’s message of recovery to suffering addicts.
What Can I Expect at a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting?
Meetings are usually held in small rented spaces, such as in churches, libraries, community centers, or hospitals. They can be open meetings, in which friends and family members of addicts are welcome, or closed meetings, which are only for addicts or people who think they may have a problem with drugs or alcohol. As the name “anonymous” implies, material discussed by members at closed meetings is generally considered to be confidential and not to be shared with the public.
Does Narcotics Anonymous Work?
Finding a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting Near You
This article originally appeared on https://www.dualdiagnosis.org/support-groups/narcotics-anonymous/