Narcotics Anonymous: What it is and Who Needs it
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) was originally founded in 1953, to help those suffering from a drug problem to access sustainable recovery.
Narcotics Anonymous is the second largest 12 Step fellowship available worldwide. As such it is likely you will have the benefit of an NA meeting in your local area. 1
The organisation has over 70,000 meetings accessible in 144 countries around the world 2.
New meetings of NA are being created all the time. So, in reality the number of meetings available now will be much higher than the official figure recorded in May 2018.
Here, Recoverlution looks at the benefits of attending Narcotics Anonymous and what they offer that could help you or a loved one to access recovery from addiction.
What is Narcotics Anonymous?
‘We have learned from our group experience that those who keep coming to our meetings regularly stay clean’ Narcotics anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous is a non-profit fellowship of men and women who come together to help each other in overcoming a problem with drugs. As one of the largest mutual aid support groups available, NA welcomes anyone with an honest desire to stop using.
Narcotics Anonymous members come together through face-to-face meetings, telephone and internet meetings. Now with the recent addition of zoom meetings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NA is more accessible than ever before.
The NA programme promotes complete abstinence from all drugs. This includes alcohol. It uses a 12 Step programme to help its members to recover from addiction and rebuild their lives.
The original 12 step programme founded by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939, has been adapted for NA members to be inclusive of all drugs 3.
Alcoholics Anonymous is solely targeted at helping alcoholics. There was therefore a great need for a programme that covered narcotics and other drugs.
Narcotics Anonymous recognises how important connection is for those recovering from a substance use problem. Drug addiction leads to isolation, disconnection and loneliness. Narcotics anonymous drives home the need for recovering addicts to stick together and help and support one another with their banner slogan ‘NA - NEVER ALONE’
The 12 Steps of NA hold the same basic principles as the programme of Alcoholics Anonymous but differs in context. The basic text of Narcotics Anonymous is written to specifically help drug addicts and focuses on addiction-related behaviours.
Who benefits from Narcotics anonymous?
Anyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual identity, race, religion, beliefs or background can potentially benefit from attending Narcotics Anonymous if they want help with stopping substances.
The NA programme covers a wide variety of substances including but not limited to:
- Legal highs
- Cocaine & crack cocaine
- Prescription drugs
- Crystal methamphetamine
Many different people from all walks of life attend NA meetings. Ranging from people that are still using drugs but want to stop to those that want a better quality of life in recovery from addiction.
Narcotics Anonymous can appeal anyone that has a drug problem and wants to access free and unlimited help and support. Their programme for recovery is particularly effective in helping those that suffer from addiction. Addiction in any form is a life-threatening, incurable but treatable condition.
Meetings of NA operate a strict confidentiality policy to protect its members identity. Members can decide for themselves of they wish to break their own confidentiality, for example if they feel it will help someone who is struggling with a drug addiction.
Who can attend NA meetings?
Anyone can attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting for a drug problem. They can also take a friend or family member to support them, providing the meeting is declared ‘Open’ on the NA website.
‘Closed’ meetings are strictly for those that have, or have had, a drug problem and have the desire to attain and maintain recovery.
The programme of Narcotics Anonymous does not conflict with traditional evidence-based addiction treatment methods, such as mental health treatment and counselling. Other treatment methods can be sought in addition to the NA programme. For many people, this is vital to achieving a full and well-rounded recovery from addiction and its common co-occurring illnesses.
Narcotics Anonymous also offer a prison sponsorship service, whereby prisoners can access the NA programme and be guided through the programme by an experienced member of NA 4
For family and friends of those that have a drug problem, Nar-Anon (NA’s sister fellowship) offers support and help to anyone affected by another person's drug use 5
Attending your first NA meeting - What to expect
Asking for help for any kind of addiction is a very courageous first step. If you are considering attending NA it is understandable if you feel nervous at first. Please don't let this deter you. The more meetings you attend the more at ease you will feel as you get to know other members.
Each meeting will have its own format. The meeting will start with some NA literature readings followed by either a topic, a basic text reading or an NA member sharing their story with the group. Most meetings run for one to one and a half hours long.
Time within each meeting is set aside for other members to share. Many meetings have a time slot set aside that is dedicated solely to newcomers, who can introduce themselves and speak if they wish. You do not have to speak if you do not feel comfortable.
After the meeting, NA members will often approach someone new and offer some words of comfort, literature or information. As members are encouraged to support one another they may also exchange phone numbers. Tea, coffee and refreshments are usually available.
If you want to attend an NA meeting but feel too anxious, it is a good idea to call the NA helpline. An NA telephone responder can explain more in-depth how attending Narcotics Anonymous may help you. They can also often source an experienced member locally who can attend the meeting with you so that you do not feel alone.
What is the programme of Narcotics Anonymous?
The programme of Narcotics Anonymous consists of 12 steps which are a set of principles, written so simply, that practically anyone can incorporate them into their daily lives.
Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous
1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. We 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.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The programme of NA is designed to bring about a profound change in thinking and behaviour that is sufficient to recover from drug addiction.
Based on the theory that a person suffering from addiction is powerless over drugs and that in order to stop taking drugs they need to find a power greater than themselves and drugs, the NA programme is designed to help you find that power.
Do I have to believe in God to attend Narcotics Anonymous?
You do not need to have a faith or a belief in a God to attend Narcotics Anonymous. If you are new to the programme of Narcotics Anonymous you are encouraged to listen to other members' stories and experiences and keep an open mind.
Yes, Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual programme, but this does not mean what you may think. Living a spiritual way of life is as simple as you make it. It can be as simple as helping other addicts to recover, supporting those you love and becoming a better version of yourself.
The aim of the NA programme is spiritual progress. Addiction cannot be overcome in a day. It takes a lifetime of ‘a day at a time’, changing unhealthy thoughts and behaviours and putting right any mistakes you may make as you go along.
Narcotics Anonymous places a great emphasis on helping its members who are struggling. This has proven to be wholly effective. Helping others gives many who suffer with addiction with a purpose and the motivation to stay clean. The principle of helping other members is carried throughout all 12 step fellowships. In NA’s case, one addict helping another addict.
The benefits of attending Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous offers numerous benefits to those that attend and engage in the programme of recovery
Benefits of attending NA include:
- Connecting with like-minded others
- Access to a free programme of recovery that has been proven amongst its members to work
- A safe space to share your problems without fear of judgment
- Provides a sense of purpose that replaces taking drugs
- Unlimited support available through numerous meetings, available 7 days a week
- A programme that promotes well-being and healing
- Helps to build a network of non using friends
- The programme addresses addiction related behaviours
- Helps to break the cycle of isolation by encouraging socialisation
- Offers a way of life that is far healthier than active addiction
- NA is free to attend
- NA holds many social events and conventions around the world
- The programme encourages personal growth, helping its members to become part of society once again
- NA believes that no one is too far gone in their addiction to recover with the assistance of the programme and fellowship
- The NA programme offers structure and discipline to replace the chaos and impulsiveness commonly associated with addiction
The benefits of attending Narcotics Anonymous are available to anyone who wants to stop taking drugs and is willing to change in order to do so.
Finding a local NA meeting
Narcotics Anonymous meetings can be easily accessed through their website, where you can also find a list of local meetings, their time, day and location. Local meeting lists can also be obtained by attending a meeting of NA.
If you are new to NA, it is suggested that you attend as many meetings as possible, listen for the similarities in other members' stories, and take contact numbers from some of the more experienced members.
For those unable to attend a face-to-face meeting, NA is also available online. Further details can be found on their website. You can also hold NA meetings directly within our purpose build recovery platform.
At Recoverlution we believe that there is no one right way to recover. As such we provide free access to many different proven methods of addiction recovery and well-being. Our aim is to support you in directly accessing sustainable recovery quickly and easily. Here, you will find a safe network of like-minded others and professionals who can help you in your journey to better health and wellbeing.
Read more: SMART Recovery
- "NA History Workshop". Mwbr.net. June 5, 1999. Archived from the original on February 8, 2007. Retrieved March 5, 2009.
- "WCNA37 Program" (PDF). Narcotics Anonymous World Services.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (2019) Historical Data - https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/about-aa/historical-data
- Prison Sponsorship/ UKNA https://ukna.org/article/prison-sponsorship
- Nar-Anon Family Groups https://www.nar-anon.org
- The 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous https://ukna.org/page/12-steps