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Narcotics Anonymous is not to be confused with Narconon, an unrelated organization.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is "a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem". It is a twelve-step program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. The only requirement for membership is "a desire to stop using," and members "meet regularly to help each other stay clean," where "clean" is defined as complete abstinence from all mood and mind altering substances (including alcohol). Membership in NA is free, there are no dues or fees. (White Booklet)

NA defines addiction as a progressive disease with no known cure, which affects every area of the addict's life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. NA suggests that the disease of addiction can be arrested, and recovery is possible through the NA twelve-step program. The steps never mention drugs or drug use, rather they refer only to addiction, to indicate that addicts have a disease of which drug use is one symptom. Other symptoms include obsession, compulsion and self-centered fear. Addicts often first enter NA after reaching a "bottom" in their life, a point at which life feels completely unmanageable, characterized by "unemployability, dereliction and destruction," with the bitter ends of jails, institutions, and death. Every NA member reaches a different bottom, which can be wherever the addict chooses to stop using. In practice, it is drug use and the extreme consequences associated with its abuse that bring most addicts to their bottom and their hopeful "moment of clarity" which can point the way toward a new life. (NA Basic Text)

Narcotics Anonymous "has no opinion on outside issues," including those of politics, science or medicine. NA purposely maintains a detached public face, and absolutely does not endorse any outside issue, individual, group or institution. The fellowship grows strictly through attracting new members, and makes no effort to promote itself.

Meetings and Home Groups

Regular meetings, hosted by NA groups are the basic unit of the NA Fellowship. Anyone is welcome at an "open" meeting, while "closed" meetings are limited to addicts and to people who think they may have a problem with drugs. Meetings are held in a variety of places such as church meeting rooms, community centers, parks, or any place that can accommodate a meeting.

"Home Group" members attend the same meeting on a regular basis to establish a recovery network and reliable routine. Group members are able to participate in the group business and play an important role in deciding how the group's meetings should be conducted. Groups also make decisions about issues that affect Narcotics Anonymous as a whole and are able to send their concerns to the service bodies that support them--Areas, Regions, Zones, and World Services.

Meeting formats vary, but in general tend to include time devoted to reading of NA literature--literature that was written by and for members of NA regarding the issues involved in living life clean. Meetings also tend to include open sharing. Some groups choose to host a single speaker (such meetings are usually denoted "speaker meetings"). Many discussion meetings are open to anyone to share.

Other meeting formats include round robin (sharing goes around a circle or each speaker picks the next person to share). Some meetings focus on a particular piece of literature, such as "Just For Today" or the "Step Working Guides." Some meetings are common needs (special interest) meetings and support a particular group of people based on gender, sexual identity, age, language or other characteristic to identify and recover. These meetings are not exclusionary, as any addict is welcome at any NA meeting.

During the meeting, time is often given to NA-related announcements, and many meetings set aside time to recognize "anniversaries" or "birthdays" of clean time. Individuals who have reached certain lengths of continuous clean time (30, 60, 90 days, 6, 9, 18 months, one or more years) are encouraged to announce their clean time to the group. In some meetings, and for certain anniversaries, keytags, medallions, or "chips" which denote the amount of clean time are distributed to those who announce their clean time.

The primary purpose of every NA group is "to carry the message to the addict who still suffers" (Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text). Therefore, the newcomer is the most important person in any meeting. The message of Narcotics Anonymous is hope: that there is another way to live. The one promise of NA is that "an addict, any addict, can stop using, lose the desire to use, and learn a new way of life" (Basic Text). According to Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, the "Twelve Steps" are the source of this hope and freedom when worked to the best of one's ability.


NA literature suggests that service work is an essential part of a program of recovery. Service is "doing the right thing for the right reason," and is the best example of Goodwill, which is the basis for the freedom promised by the NA program. Service may be as simple as being present in a meeting or answering a phone. Additionally, there are basic, formalized service positions at the group level to help the group perform its function: examples include treasurer, secretary and "Group Service Representative" which represents the group in the larger service structure.

The Narcotics Anonymous service structure operates at area, regional and world levels. These levels of service exist to serve the groups and are directly responsible to those groups, they do not govern. World services is accountable to its member regions, who are in turn responsible to member areas. Area Service Committees directly support member groups and often put on special events, such as dances and picnics. Area service committees also provide special subcommittees to serve the needs of members who may be confined in jails and institutions, and will also provide a public interface to the fellowship.

The Steps

The Twelve Steps are the foundation of the NA program. The Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous are:

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.


Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual program, not a religious program. The literature suggests that members formulate their own personal understanding of a higher power. The only suggested guidelines are that this power be "loving, caring, and greater than one's self." Members are given complete freedom in coming to an understanding of a higher power that works for them. Individuals from countless spiritual and religious backgrounds, as well as many atheists and agnostics, have developed a working relationship with a higher power in Narcotics Anonymous. Some members who have difficulty with the term "God" substitute "higher power" or read it as an acronym for "Good Orderly Direction."

The twelve steps of the NA program are based upon indispensable spiritual principles, three of which are honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, embodied in the first three steps. These principles, when followed to the best of one's ability, allow for a new way of life.

NA is not a sect, cult, or religion. It is a spiritual program of recovery from the disease of addiction.


It is highly recommended that members of Narcotics Anonymous find a sponsor. A sponsor is a member of NA who helps another member of the fellowship by sharing their experience, strength and hope in recovery and serves as guide through the Twelve Steps.


"Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities." (Basic Text)

NA members identify themselves in meetings by their first name only. The spirit of anonymity is about placing "principles before personalities" and recognizing that no individual addict is superior to another, and that individual addicts do not recover without the fellowship or its spiritual principles.

The Twelve Traditions state that NA members "must always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films."


Narcotics Anonymous sprang from the Alcoholics Anonymous Program of the late 1940s, with meetings first emerging in the Los Angeles area of California, USA, in the early Fifties. The NA program started as a small US movement that has grown into one of the world's oldest and largest organizations of its type.

For many years, NA grew very slowly, spreading from Los Angeles to other major North American cities and Australia in the early 1970s. Within a few years, groups had formed in Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, the Irish Republic, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Today, Narcotics Anonymous holds regular meetings in 116 countries with translations of literature available in 47 different languages. There are currently 119 translation projects underway.


Narcotics Anonymous members owe no dues or fees, however, the Fellowship does incur expenses. These expenses are met solely with the donations of members. NA absolutely does not accept any outside donations. NA offers much of its literature for sale to anyone at cost, the remainder is offered for free. Other expenses include group refreshments, meeting-place rent, etc. Financial information is available to members from any level of the service structure. (Basic Text)

See also

External links


"Little White Booklet," World Service Office.

"Narcotics Anonymous," 5th ed., 1988. World Service Office. ISBN 0-912075-02-3. Also known as "Basic Text."

da:Anonyme Narkomaner de:Narcotics Anonymous nl:NA-Anonieme Verslaafden pt:Narcóticos Anônimos sv:Anonyma Narkomaner

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