NA: What is Narcotics Anonymous?


The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) had little way of knowing that their efforts would influence addiction programs for years to come. Three decades after AA’s founding, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) became one of these programs. With a focus of helping members overcome substance abuse problems, the organization has become integral in the world of recovery.

Not everyone who takes part in Narcotics Anonymous, though, will find success within the organization. Many individuals give up on the program after relapsing, and others find that they thrive with alternative treatment options. This is why it’s important to understand what NA has to offer and how to increase the potential for success in the program.

What is Narcotics Anonymous?

Founded in 1953 and modeled around its alcohol-focused counterpart, Narcotics Anonymous focuses on helping its members overcome drug addiction in all its forms. The program has Twelve Traditions and Twelve Steps, and the third tradition dictates that “a desire to stop using” is the only membership requirement.

NA started out in Los Angeles in the early 1950s. These meetings continued without legitimate recognition until the official founding of the organization in 1953. A few organizations previously had similar focuses – namely Addicts Anonymous and an unrelated New York prison program called Narcotics Anonymous – but the official NA grew larger and outlived both groups.

The Twelve Steps and Traditions of NA are nearly identical to those used in Alcoholics Anonymous. The group logo, however, lists several unique facets:

  • Strength and Courage
  • Friendship
  • Peace and Serenity
  • Love
  • God

As we’ll discuss in the next section, “God” doesn’t necessarily mean an all-knowing deity watching over us. Because of this, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking NA is a religious program that will attempt to indoctrinate you. The primary focus of Narcotics Anonymous has and always will be to bring people together to help each other overcome addiction.

The “anonymous” aspect of NA is also taken very seriously. This can make it difficult to keep official membership counts, but it also means that people don’t have to worry about judgement or potential repercussions. In fact, the group has no outside affiliation with law enforcement or other organizations.

If you’re visiting an NA meeting for the first time, it’s smart to understand the following terminology:

  • Basic Text: Essentially a “membership guide” that contains everything you need to know.
  • Higher Power: This is merely a loving force – which could include deities, nature, science or even the group – that helps a person stay clean.
  • Newcomers: Individuals new to the NA organization or meeting.
  • Sharing: Telling personal stories related to addiction and recovery.
  • Trusted Servants: Members who have taken on positions of service responsibility in the group.
  • Relapse: When someone in recovery slips up and uses drugs.
  • IPs: Pamphlets of information provided by NA.
  • Group: Members who come together to take part in Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
  • Sponsor: Members with experience in the organization who offer support to newcomers going through the process.
  • Addict: Terminology that members use to identify themselves as individuals with a specific problem that goes beyond a single drug.

Taking part in Narcotics Anonymous is typically a personal decision. There are members who attend meetings, however, because of orders from a court. Regardless of how an individual arrives to the program, though, the overarching goal of overcoming addiction remains the same. When you attend meetings, keep in mind that you only have to share what you’re comfortable sharing.

There are many methods for overcoming addiction, and if you’re battling drug dependence, NA might be an effective tool. Contact us today at Transformations Treatment Center and we can help you understand whether Narcotics Anonymous may be beneficial to your recovery.

Who Can Join Narcotics Anonymous?

NA doesn’t discriminate against any potential members. As discussed earlier, the only requirement for membership is a desire to overcome addiction. It requires no dues or fees to become a member, and this makes NA one of the most accessible dependency programs out there. There are also no specific beliefs necessary to join.

While NA calls itself a spiritual recovery program, they leave all religious undertones at the door. The Higher Power mentioned in the group’s literature can take any form based on a person’s personal understanding. Similarly, there is no organization-wide opinion on medicine, politics or science. The entirety of focus in the program remains overcoming addictive behaviors.

While a desire to stop using is a requirement for membership, it’s important to understand that there are various meeting types offered. Depending on when you attend, there may be outsiders present:

  • Closed Meetings: These are meetings reserved solely for Narcotics Anonymous members. Only those recovering from addiction may attend.
  • Open Meetings: Anyone may attend an open meeting. This could include loved ones showing support, prospective members or even individuals curious about how the program works.

The organization also doesn’t discriminate based on the type of drugs a person is addicted to. In fact, individuals experiencing alcoholism are also welcome. They base this on the fact that the focus of Narcotics Anonymous is addiction. After all, individuals who face one addiction are more prone to others. Because of this, the focus is never on a particular drug.

Regardless of the addiction you’re facing, the question of who can join Narcotics Anonymous always comes down to “you.” Don’t be afraid to seek help – because everyone you meet in the program is going through the same struggles.

Narcotics Anonymous Effectiveness Rates

There has been significant debate regarding the efficacy of 12-step programs, but studies related to NA participation seem to be promising. There are more than 67,000 meetings held every week throughout the world, but popularity doesn’t necessarily correlate with effectiveness. Fortunately, several studies seem to support the use of the program.

One of the earliest studies related to the effectiveness of Narcotics Anonymous found that those who participated in the program for three years had reduced drug usage and lowered levels of anxiety. Another study discovered that stable attendance and increased service involvement correlated with a four-fold decrease in substance abuse after 12 months.

A more recent review of research found that a preponderance of evidence supports the fact that 12-step programs increase abstinence. These effectiveness rates can vary based on demographics, but research suggests that combining Narcotics Anonymous with other treatments typically results in a significantly higher rate of success.

Is Narcotics Anonymous Right For You?

Anyone who wants help to overcome addiction can join NA, but the question remains of whether the program is right for you. Everyone is different, and what may work for some won’t necessarily be effective for others. This is why it’s so important to create a treatment plan that’s customized to the individual.

As some studies have found, though, Narcotics Anonymous meetings are the norm for those trying to overcome drug addiction. In fact, one review found that “a substantial minority” of those recovering from substance abuse don’t take part in NA or other 12-step programs. There are some factors, though, that point towards an increased potential for effectiveness:

  • NA is only one component of a customized treatment plan.
  • You’ve previously relapsed when trying to quit on your own – even after detoxification and other treatment measures.
  • Other 12-step programs have worked for you in the past.
  • Most current social interaction occurs with others with substance abuse disorder.

The last element is of the utmost importance. People whose social connections include others with drug abuse problems can find it more difficult to stop using. This is because everyone needs social interaction, but when this interaction is with individuals not in active recovery, relapse is a serious risk.

This is why the community and group setting of Narcotics Anonymous is so effective. By giving ourselves different social influences, we can alter the possibility of falling into the same old habits. Reach out to us at Transformations Treatment Center today to learn how our programs can get you into a healthy environment for recovery.

How to Find a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting

Finding an NA meeting is often as simple as visiting the organization’s website. They even have apps in both Apple and Android stores to help identify local gatherings. You can do a direct search to find meetings in a specific area, or you could locate the information for local websites, helplines and groups.

When trying to find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, the organization recommends using their online tool for reaching out to local groups. Even though the national website has a wealth of information, schedule changes can occur without their knowledge. This can become especially important if it’s possible that a person may use the change as an excuse to not attend.

You can also easily find virtual Narcotics Anonymous meetings and many that get hosted over the phone. These became important during the coronavirus outbreak, but their usage was already growing in prior years. These resources can serve as an easy introduction to the program and understanding the process of meetings.

Don’t Fight This Demon Alone

If you’re dealing with substance abuse issues, it’s not a battle you have to face alone. Narcotics Anonymous offers fellowship and mutual aid for individuals fighting dependency. As part of a customized recovery plan, NA can serve as a powerful crutch for those trying to cease unhealthy drug use. If you need help, don’t waste any time in seeking it out.

At Transformations Treatment Center, our staff of professionals offers proven and data-supported treatment options to help in the fight against substance abuse disorder. Narcotics Anonymous is only one potential piece of the puzzle, though, so contact us today to learn how a customized treatment plan could change your life.


Narcotics Anonymous

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Drug and Alcohol Dependence

Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly


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