Closely based on Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) has a nearly identical purpose to that of its predecessor but with one important difference. Rather than focusing on alcohol sobriety, Narcotics Anonymous is open to users of any type of drug (including alcohol) that want to pursue a drug-free life. It was born out of a lack of a safe space for illicit drug users, whose meeting activity often underwent police surveillance, to gather. Its creation also coincided with the country’s first bout of the opioid epidemic and whose users faced heavy persecution and stigma. Narcotics Anonymous provides a place for “hard” drug users to build a strong social network and draw motivation from their peers just as AA does for alcoholics. Having paved the way for a number of other 12 Step and faith-based recovery organizations, does the success of AA guarantee that NA meetings work? As is the case with Alcoholics Anonymous, the experience and outcome of the 12 step approach are intensely personal. The teachings and message must resonate with the individual in order to truly be successful and result in long-term sobriety.
A Brief Look at Narcotics Anonymous
- Founded in 1953, this addiction recovery treatment program is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous
- NA meetings are usually open to anyone struggling with substance abuse
- Faith-based treatment program that uses a 12 step program
- Information shared at meetings is confidential
Narcotics Anonymous: How It Works
NA was officially formed in 1953 although similar programs existed before then. The general gist of this treatment program stems from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The structure of the meetings is similar. The theories behind them are also almost identical. The philosophy of NA and AA revolves around following a 12-Step program. The only difference lies in the fact that AA meetings cater to alcoholics, and NA meetings cater to drug addicts. NA meetings welcome anyone who is struggling with drug addiction. There’s no cost involved at all.
Both AA and NA meetings are anonymous programs. Drug addicts can join these meetings, share their personal stories, and access recovery tools without having to disclose their identities or any other personal information. No one has to use their real name, and everything shared in these meetings are kept confidential. The goal is to create a safe space for drug addicts to share their stories. Members mutually support one another to create a strong support network. Some members link up with a mentor who will show them the ropes. People who attend AA meetings can also attend NA meetings if they struggle with polydrug abuse.
There are thousands of NA support groups worldwide and most are open to the general public. Anyone can attend these meetings without any strings attached or fear of having to disclose their identities. Narcotics Anonymous meetings can be found via an online database or through their dedicated NA Meeting Search app (available in the App Store and Google Play).
Narcotics Anonymous 12 Steps
The twelve steps in this treatment program are fairly straightforward and identical to those of the originals 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. NA is meant to be a spiritual experience. It’s different from SMART recovery, which is a science-based program. The 12 steps of NA are a modified version of Alcohol Anonymous’ and also have similar interpretations and application:
- Admit that we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable. Take a look at the real world instead of hiding behind drugs.
- Come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
- Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to this Higher Power. Surrender your heart, mind, and will to the Higher Power and allow it to guide your behaviors.
- Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
- Admit to the Higher Power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Be ready to have a Higher Power remove all of these defects of character.
- Humbly ask the Higher Power to remove our shortcomings.
- Make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
- Make direct amends to such people wherever and whenever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others.
- Continue to take personal inventory and admit when we are wrong in a prompt manner.
- Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with this Higher Power.
- Attempt a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps and try to carry this message to other alcoholics and addicts.
Much like with AA, Narcotics Anonymous meetings follow twelve steps. These meetings are faith-based and require some sort of belief in a Higher Power. This can be anything and does not have to be a religious icon. Atheists can believe that the Higher Power is themselves and their own willpower.
What Are the Benefits of NA?
Much like with all other addictions treatment, numerous studies have gone into researching the effectiveness of AA or NA meetings. The actual success rate of these meetings is unknown. This is because the definition of success is different for everyone. With that said, many drug addicts have chimed in. According to recovering addicts, NA attendance can:
- Improve family relationships and social connections. Many drug addicts find the social support they need from these meetings. They connect with others in similar situations, so they feel less alone. They also help one another abstain from drugs and alcohol.
- Help members find other hobbies to occupy their time with. It’s hard to reach out to others when you have a problem. By reaching out, drug abusers can find other pleasurable hobbies and activities that will keep them on the straight and narrow.
- Find resources that help them deal with cravings and other issues. People in AA or NA will usually know where to look for the right resources. Old members can teach new members any tricks they’ve picked up over the years. For example, some members may have a specific routine they follow when they begin to crave drugs or alcohol.
- Keep members clean and sober. It’s much easier for drug abusers to stay sober when they have the support of others. Willpower and mental health are crucial in the addiction recovery process.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong journey. That’s why many addicts will often attend at least one meeting a week for the rest of their life. It’s also important to find a group that works. Drug abusers should attend the same meeting for the rest of their recovery. These meetings can help them move forward in life and away from their addiction.
The Different Types of NA Meetings
Not all NA meetings are the same. Members attend different types of meetings to help with their alcohol and drug addiction. There are three different basic meeting types involved with the 12-Step approach. These meetings include:
- Speaker meetings. These meetings are fairly straightforward. There’s a primary speaker who shares his or her experiences. At times, these meetings will allow for more than one speaker. Various members share their personal stories and experiences with drug or alcohol abuse. There’s no judgment at these meetings at all, so many drug abusers feel comfortable in sharing their stories. These meetings can improve one’s mental health. Sharing can help many people feel less stressed.
- Discussion meetings. These meetings focus on various topics related to drugs or alcohol. The topics in these meetings will change all the time. Some meetings focus on how to get the most out of behavioral health therapies. Others will focus on how to deal with cravings. Some meetings will have members draft up a plan for facing cravings and triggers. These meetings can be very educational and informative.
- Step meetings. These meetings discuss various steps. They talk about the theory behind the steps and how each step contributes to an addict’s recovery.
Each group will announce the type of meeting that they are hosting ahead of time. It’s usually in the best interest of drug abusers to attend all of these meetings. Joining the same group week after week will also be beneficial. It helps members build a strong social support network and rapport with others.
Don’t Overlook the Benefits of NA Meetings
There’s nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Twelve-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous are easy to fit into your addiction recovery treatment plan and the benefits are many. If you’re struggling with drug addiction, joining an NA meeting can help you move forward with your recovery. You can meet others who are in a similar situation. Having a strong social support network can increase your chances of a successful recovery and decrease your risk of relapsing.
Some rehab centers will have in-house NA meetings during your stay with them. This is especially true if you’re opting for inpatient treatment. Once you’ve completed your treatment, you’ll need to find a meeting that not only works well for your time slot but is also filled with people that you get along with. Virtual NA meetings are also an option, and allow narcotic addicts to connect from all around the world. Whether you prefer face-to-face meetings or healing from the comfort of your own home, it’s easy to find NA meetings happening near you.
Many addiction treatment centers recommend that their patients participate in some sort of 12 step recovery group such as Narcotics Anonymous. There are many aspects involved in treating addiction. NA meetings can help improve your mental health and act as a form of behavioral therapy or counseling. Don’t overlook the benefits of going to a meeting every week. If you keep at it, like how you work towards recovery, you’ll be clean and sober in no time.