Narcotics Anonymous

The concept of 12-step recovery programs has been a popular and successful recovery tool since the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) over 80 years ago. AA has been so successful that it has spawned spinoff programs, including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), which focuses on drug addiction, but remains inclusive.

Like AA, NA World Services is a nonprofit fellowship whose primary purpose is to encourage those in active addiction to stop using drugs and to provide accountability and support for recovering drug addicts.

What is Narcotics Anonymous?

Founded in 1953 off the success of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous is a non-denominational 12-step program for recovering addicts and those for whom drug use is still a significant problem in their lives.

Narcotics Anonymous was started in Los Angeles by Jimmy Kinnon, AKA “Jimmy K.” Like the founders of AA, Jimmy also struggled with addiction and wanted to help others by providing a recovery program that expanded beyond just alcohol abuse and addiction.

Over 70,000 in-person and online meetings are held in over 140 countries to help NA members maintain sobriety in a supportive group environment.

Important NA Literature

Much like AA, NA has a main textbook that contains the program’s 12 steps, inspiring recovery stories, and other information. For AA, it is known as the “Big Book,” and NA’s main book is called the “Basic Text.”

NA also has a book called “Just for Today” that contains daily meditations to support members with long-term sobriety. The meditations from “Just for Today” are also published online at jftna.org, where a relevant reflection is posted daily.

Additional NA literature is available on their website, from downloadable pamphlets to books.

What Are the 12 Steps of NA?

The 12 steps of NA are a step-by-step checklist to help you on your recovery journey. NA members will complete each step before moving on to the next in line.

The 12 Steps of NA are as follows:

Step 1: Powerlessness. During step one, you acknowledge that you are powerless in your drug addiction. Admitting to yourself that you have a drug problem and are powerless on your own is the key to recovery.

Step 2: Hope. Next, step two asks you to look to a higher power for guidance and support. This higher power can be religious, such as a god or deity, or it can be a powerful concept that reminds you that you don’t have all the answers.

Step 3: Surrender. By surrendering to a higher power, you admit that there is something out there that is greater than you are. It also reminds you that there is more to life outside of your addiction.

Step 4: Inventory. Doing an inventory is an exercise in self-reflection. During step four, you examine the mistakes you have made throughout your addiction.

Step 5: Confession. Step five takes place shortly after step four and asks you to be honest about your mistakes. Speaking your truth might seem hard at first, but is an important part of living with integrity during recovery.

Step 6: Acceptance. Once you acknowledge your flaws and mistakes, you will then take time to accept yourself for who you are. Everyone has good and bad characteristics, and our mistakes do not define us.

Step 7: Humility. Step seven asks you to turn to your higher power for support and inspiration. You might pray for guidance or examine a deeply held philosophy and see how it inspires you to acknowledge that you don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Step 8: Amends List. During step eight, you will make a list of the people you might have hurt as a result of your drug addiction.

Step 9: Make Amends. Now that you have created a list of those you have wronged, step nine asks you to reach out to those people and offer them an apology. (Sometimes, people on your list may not be open to having a conversation. It is more important that you tried to make amends rather than received forgiveness.)

Step 10: Maintain Inventory. Step ten encompasses your entire recovery process. You will continually check in with yourself during your recovery journey and remain honest about your progress.

Step 11: Reflect. For step eleven, you will engage in prayer or meditation to consider your life’s purpose.

Step 12: Be of Service. Many people likely helped you throughout your recovery journey. Step twelve asks you to take the new chance at life that you’ve been given and use it to help others

What to Expect at an NA Meeting

Much in the same way that AA meetings do, Narcotics Anonymous meetings follow a specific structure. Group leaders typically provide snacks and drinks to enjoy before the start of the meeting. Once everyone gets settled and seated, then the meeting will begin.

There are two main types of Narcotics Anonymous meetings: speaker meetings and open discussion meetings. During a speaker meeting, one person will speak and lead the meeting. In contrast, open discussion meetings are more like a round table discussion where everyone can take turns sharing their stories and experiences.

At the start of the meeting, the person in charge of leading (or chairing) the NA meeting will ask if there are any newcomers and will pass around an NA booklet with space for names and phone numbers of fellow attendees.

It’s often suggested that newcomers call fellow addicts when they want to use their drug of choice. The term “dial it, don’t file it” is based on the concept that urges can be overcome by group support.

At the end of the meeting, newcomers and addicts who have relapsed are invited to pick up a “white chip” or “white keychain” representing surrender. After newcomers and returning addict pick up their white tokens, the meeting leader passes out different colored tokens to celebrate periods of sobriety.

Attending an NA meeting is free, which applies to in-person and online meetings. It is customary to take up collections to help cover some of the basic expenses of the NA meeting like rent, snacks, drinks, etc. There is no financial requirement to be a member of NA, and any contribution is 100% voluntary.

NA meetings typically run anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes.

Who Should Attend Narcotics Anonymous?

Whereas Alcoholics Anonymous is specifically for those suffering from alcohol abuse and addiction, NA is for anyone suffering from substance abuse, including those suffering from addiction to more than one substance.

Common substances that those who attend NA meetings are addicted to include:

The only requirement for attending an NA meeting is the desire to maintain one’s sobriety.

Generally speaking, members recommend in-person meetings over virtual or phone meetings for new members. However, in-person meetings aren’t always possible. The coronavirus pandemic, for example, made in-person attendance impossible for a while due to lockdowns and so on.

How To Find an NA Meeting Near You

Narcotics Anonymous has made it easy to locate meetings in your area through the “For the Public” tab on their website. Additionally, NA meetings are offered both virtually and by phone. Here is a list of NA virtual meetings.

NA phone meetings are operated by individual Area Service Committees (ASC). To find the regional service committee for your area, visit the “Meeting Search” section of the Narcotics Anonymous World Services website. There, you can find the specific helpline for where you live.

Looking For An NA Meeting Nearby?

For almost 70 years, NA has been helping those suffering from substance abuse and addiction by providing a safe and supportive group environment to focus on their sobriety.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction and could benefit from attending an NA meeting, you can view your local NA meeting list on their website to find one that best fits your schedule.

Reviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Addiction Guide and ensures the quality of our website’s content and messaging.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

5 references
  1. NAWS: Find A meeting. (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.na.org/meetingsearch/

  2. Virtual NA. virtual. (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://virtual-na.org/

  3. About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.na.org/?ID=aboutus

  4. Narcotics Anonymous. Welcome to Narcotics Anonymous. Van Nuys, CA: Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc.; Retrieved on July 13, 2022 from https://na.org/admin/include/spaw2/uploads/pdf/litfiles/us_english/IP/EN3122.pdf

  5. An introduction to NA meetings – IP #29. (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.na.org/admin/include/spaw2/uploads/files/EN3129.pdf

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