What to Know About the Narcotics Anonymous 12-Step Program
Narcotics Anonymous at a glance:
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an addiction recovery organization that was founded in 1953.1
- There is no cost to attend, and the program is open to anyone who wants to overcome any substance dependence.2
- The NA recovery model uses 12 steps that emphasize reliance on social support and a Higher Power.3
- Even though the NA 12 steps use the Higher Power concept, the program is not affiliated with any religion.3
- Sharing at these substance recovery meetings is voluntary, and participation is confidential.4
What is Narcotics Anonymous (NA)?
Although the organization was originally founded to counter narcotic abuse and addiction, NA now welcomes anyone who is trying to overcome any type of drug or alcohol dependence. NA began as an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The 12-step NA recovery program was designed to parallel the one implemented by AA, and it was meant to be a recovery pathway with all participants following a set of guidelines and supporting each other’s efforts to stay clean.3,5
What is the Purpose of NA? The goal of NA is to help those suffering from addiction through the process of recovery and to spread the message that recovery is possible.
What is an NA Program?
NA is an anonymous 12-step system. It offers a safe space where members do not have to give their name or any other identifying information. The program is open to people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and religions.2,3
NA has no fees, dues, or pledges. The only requirement for participation is the desire to quit using drugs. The organization is not affiliated with any other organizations or political, religious, or law enforcement groups.2,3
What are the 12 Steps of NA?
Many people wonder, “Is NA a 12 step program?,” and the answer is yes.
Similar to AA, NA helps participants recover by walking them through a process of 12 steps. Although the 12 steps of NA are meant to be explored in order, many people who are struggling with addictions will visit and revisit various NA steps over time:
The 12 Steps of NA3,5
- We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable.
- We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- 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.
- 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.
The Spirituality of the NA 12 Steps
Did You Know?
According to the NA website, the number of members and meetings has increased dramatically since the publication of its Basic Text in 1983. Each week, 67,000 NA meetings are held in 139 countries around the world
Similar to AA, NA is not affiliated with a particular religion. However, as is true of many 12-step recovery programs, NA’s recovery program may be considered “spiritual,” as the 12 steps of NA refer to “God” or a “Higher Power.”
Some individuals may already feel comfortable with this spiritual element of the recovery program. Some may feel indifferent about it but may find during the recovery process that they end up benefitting from this spiritual aspect. Others may not feel comfortable with any level of spirituality in their recovery process. These individuals can seek out one of the few secular 12-step programs or one of the handful of non-12-step programs that do not incorporate any level of spirituality.
What to Expect at Meetings
Because all Narcotics Anonymous groups act autonomously, types of members at meetings may vary from group to group. Some meetings are closed, accepting only recovering addicts. Other meetings may be open, or welcoming of non-addicts who wish to attend in support of a loved one or to gain knowledge and understanding.
If you are seeking recovery only from alcohol addiction, you may find greater understanding in NA groups with larger numbers of recovering alcoholics; alternatively, Alcoholics Anonymous is also open to you and may provide some more specific help for your needs.
General NA Meeting Rules
Regardless of the group type, here is what you can expect at an NA meeting:
- Every attendee should be treated with respect.
- Personal sharing is voluntary.
- Some meetings may include speakers who can share their own insights.
- Only first names are used, and attendance is kept private within the meeting.
- Meetings are free to attend; money is accepted by voluntary donation only.
- Meeting location does not necessarily indicate affiliation; meetings may be held in public spaces or religious buildings.
The 12 Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous
In addition to the NA 12 steps, NA operates on a set of guidelines meant to facilitate healthier relationships with other individuals and with society. These guidelines developed from the AA movement and are described as 12 Traditions that NA members adhere to and respect. Understanding these traditions may help you better learn how the NA support group works.
Find a Recovery Program
The 12 steps of NA have positively impacted people around the world by applying the same principles and traditions universally. If you or a loved one is ready to start down the path to sobriety, find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting or organization in your area by visiting the NA Meeting search page. Meeting schedules may change, so it’s best to verify the information through the local chapter’s website or helpline.
Members of these chapters are making the same journey to sobriety that you are, and you’ll benefit from continued support throughout your recovery with the 12 steps of NA.
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- Narcotics Anonymous World Services. (n.d.). About Us.
- Narcotics Anonymous World Services. (1986). What Is the Narcotics Anonymous Program?
- Narcotics Anonymous World Services. (1998). Institutional Group Guide.
- Narcotics Anonymous World Services. (n.d.). Information about NA.
- World Service Office. (1998). The Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guide.
Recovery.org is not affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous, NA World Services, Inc. or any of its subsidiaries. This information is provided as a resource for those seeking third-party information.