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Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – 12 Step Program

Narcotics Anonymous: these words may seem like something everyone has heard about, but to an addict, they can be lifesaving. While the words may be more common to some than others, just because they are said doesn’t mean they are understood. Narcotics Anonymous is not just another self-help group that should be taken lightly; it is the life-altering step that can lead many addicts down the road to recovery.

What is Narcotics Anonymous?

Although many people are familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous and have been for many years, Narcotics Anonymous wasn’t as popular as it has become in recent years. Narcotics Anonymous is a 12-step program that focuses on the same principles and understandings as Alcoholics Anonymous, except it focuses on addicts and their addictions. It is a nonprofit organization that’s sole purpose is to help individuals who suffer from drug addiction by providing them with daily steps to stay clean and sober.

There are no strings attached when joining the Narcotics Anonymous fellowship and newcomers are always welcome. For many of the members of the fellowship, gaining experience and knowledge through the group meetings is one of the simplest ways to help maintain sobriety. In order to keep their sobriety, the members also rely on sharing their knowledge and experiences with those just entering the program.

The program simply provides twelve steps to help those suffering from drug addiction lead healthy, happy and sober lives.

How Narcotics Anonymous was Founded

While Alcoholics Anonymous’ founder Bill Wilson is a very public figure, NA was not founded until years later in 1953. The program’s founder, Jimmy Kinnon, was more popularly known as Jimmy K. because the program was to maintain its anonymity. Although the program was originally called AA/NA, the Alcoholics Anonymous organization gave NA permission to utilize their twelve steps and twelve traditions and the name of the group was changed to Narcotics Anonymous.

Although AA had a huge impact on the world as it grew so quickly and largely from the start, NA didn’t gain popularity until the early 1980’s. According to the Narcotics Anonymous website, the fellowship now has over 67,000 members worldwide.

How the Program Works

For most addicts, hearing about these programs isn’t anything new but unfortunately that doesn’t explain how the program works for those who have never been to a meeting. The program works – if you work it.

The NA fellowship isn’t an intervention or a rehabilitation program and has no intentions of forcing anyone to get clean and sober; it simply relies on an addict’s desire to stop using. The focus of NA is to provide addicts with resources, other people who can share their experiences, strength and hope, daily steps to help individuals stay sober and the understanding that addiction is a disease that you can recover from.

The basis of maintaining sobriety in the NA program is by following the twelve steps, attending meetings regularly and obtaining a sponsor. Sponsors are individuals who have been sober for at least a year that can help newcomers begin understanding and working the steps of the program. Meetings are generally an hour long and are held at all times of the day.

The Requirements for Joining the Fellowship

There are no monetary requirements or hidden fees for joining the fellowship of NA; there is no tuition or costs to encounter; the only requirement for joining the program is the desire to abstain from using drugs. While NA is a spiritual program, members do not have to believe in God to join the fellowship – there are many agnostics and atheists who are members of NA. Members of the fellowship welcome all newcomers who have a desire to stop using drugs and are available to build a support system to provide the reality that recovery is possible.

During most NA meetings, a basket is passed around for members to contribute monetary donations if they can – but these are never required. Members give what they can to help provide for others in the membership who cannot. The self-supporting group cares for one another so that nobody feels discriminated against and that every individual feels welcome. Because the group is self supporting, they also do not accept outside contributions; they rely solely on members of the program.

Why Narcotics Anonymous Works

Narcotics Anonymous is a program that works and there are several reasons why many of its members recover from drug addiction. Simply put, once individuals have admitted that they are powerless over their addiction and have abstained from using drugs, working the twelve steps with a sponsor will not only maintain sobriety but it will encourage a better and healthier way of life. The program isn’t in place to only help members get sober; it is in place to help addicts recognize the mistakes of their past, confront their personal defects and flaws, make amends to those they have hurt and move forward with their new lives in recovery. Addiction was more than just using, so the recovery process is more than just getting sober.

Although the twelve steps are very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, NA also characterizes alcohol as a drug and recognizes that recovery is possible for those who attend meetings and work the steps. Getting clean and sober is just a small fraction of the recovery process; working the twelve steps will help individuals maintain sobriety and completely transform how a person once was to who they want to be.

Making the Next Step

It may seem like a lot to take in, but finding the first meeting can help those looking to get sober begin on their new journey. There are meetings all over the world so they can be found with a quick Google search. There are many online resources to help those looking for meetings, including the SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Requirement for Membership

The only requirement for attending meetings is the desire to stop using; it all begins with one day at a time.

“It is never easy, but it does get easier.”

12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

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.


12 Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on NA unity.

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or NA as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.

6. An NA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the NA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every NA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Narcotics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. NA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.


Narcotics Anonymous (NA) FAQs

What is the Narcotics Anonymous program?

Narcotics Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who suffer from drug addiction and are seeking out recovery. There are no dues or fees for membership to the program of Narcotics Anonymous; the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using. The program is focused on principles that will allow members to obtain and maintain sobriety, as well as improve their quality of life.

What is a Narcotics Anonymous meeting like?

While there are many different types of meetings, anyone is welcome to any kind of meeting if they have the desire to stop using. In regular, closed meetings, members who identify as addicts are encouraged to share their stories of recovery as all of the individuals do the same around the room. Nobody is required to share anything at a meeting nor required to make any monetary contributions; simply being there and listening is enough.

What are the spiritual principles of Narcotics Anonymous?

While Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual program, it is not a religious one. Members are not required to be religious in any way, shape or form. The twelve spiritual principles of Narcotics Anonymous are in place to help members improve their everyday life and apply the principles in whatever ways they see fit. The twelve principles include hope, surrender, acceptance, honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, faith, tolerance, patience, humility, unconditional love and sharing and caring.

What does the Narcotics Anonymous symbol mean?

The Narcotics Anonymous symbol was created to show the program’s simplicity, but the symbol as a whole has easily understood meanings by those in the program. The circle implies a universal program open to anyone seeking out recovery, while the square, which can be seen three dimensionally as a triangle, symbolizes, starting at the bottom of the pyramid, goodwill, society, God, service, self and freedom. All of these parts are what an addict needs for their recovery.

What is the success rate of Narcotics Anonymous?

Narcotics Anonymous did a survey in 2013 via online, fax or mail for about five months, receiving over 16,000 responses. Members with under a year of sobriety was 9%, one to five years was 33%, six to ten years was 17%, 11 to 15 years was 11%, 16 to 20 years was 11% and 19 years or more was 19%.

What is a sponsor in Narcotics Anonymous?

A sponsor in the program of Narcotics Anonymous is not only someone who will help you work the twelve steps, traditions and concepts, but it is somebody you can trust and confide in. They are there to share their experiences, strength and hope, as well as listen to things you may not feel comfortable sharing with others. A sponsor is someone who has worked their own program and has at least a year or more of sobriety. The best way to get a sponsor is to ask someone who may have had an impact on you, whether it was just through talking or what was said during a meeting.

What is the primary purpose of Narcotics Anonymous?

The primary purpose of Narcotics Anonymous is to carry the message to addicts, who are still active in addiction and suffering, that they are not alone and that recovery is possible. The only requirement to join the fellowship is the desire to stop using. The fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous is a place for those in recovery to help share their experiences, strength and hope with those who are still sick and suffering.

How do you start a Narcotics Anonymous meeting?

If you want to start your own Narcotics Anonymous meeting, the best way to do so is to get with other members in the fellowship and spread the word about a new meeting. Once you have chosen a time and place for the meeting, there are resources available on the Narcotics Anonymous website for meeting formats and other support materials. You can contact your local Narcotics Anonymous service body to announce the new meeting, as well as register the meeting online at the NA website.

How do you become a sponsor in Narcotics Anonymous?

Becoming a sponsor is simply a choice that you can make once you have worked the program, maintained sobriety and developed the willingness to help others work their own programs. Becoming someone’s sponsor can be beneficial to the sponsor and the sponsee, as it allows the both of them to share their experiences with one another. The responsibilities of sponsorship can include guiding a sponsee through the twelve steps, sharing their resources and tools to maintain sobriety, answering questions about the literature and suggesting new meetings to their sponsee.

How effective is Narcotics Anonymous?

There is never a guarantee that the program will work for everyone, but it works for those who work the program. Narcotics Anonymous offers addicts seeking recovery the opportunity to connect with others members in recovery and build the support system they need to obtain sobriety.

Who founded Narcotics Anonymous?

Narcotics Anonymous was founded by Jimmy Kinnon in 1953, or as many of the members knew him as “Jimmy K.” to protect anonymity in the program. With the approval from Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous adapted the twelve steps and changed the word alcohol in the first step to drugs. Jimmy K. also contributed to much of the Narcotics Anonymous literature, including the “Yellow Booklet” and the “Little White Booklet.”

Who is Narcotics Anonymous for?

Narcotics Anonymous is for anyone who has the desire to stop using drugs. Whether or not you identify as an addict, the program is for those whom drugs have become a major problem. The program is intended for individuals seeking recovery and provides a support system for members in the fellowship to share their stories with another in order to maintain sobriety.

Where do you find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting?

With a quick Google search, Narcotics Anonymous meetings in your area can be found almost instantly, or by typing your information into the Narcotics Anonymous meeting search page. If you are uncomfortable with attending meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are virtual meetings and phone meetings available as well.

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: 12Steppers.org is not partnered or affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous. The information provided is strictly for informational purposes.

Read more about 12-step programs for substance abuse.

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