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If you are taking your first steps on the path to recovering from narcotic addiction, having a community of people (Narcotics Anonymous) who understand and share your experiences can be incredibly helpful and motivating.
For many with drug addiction, the first support group that likely comes to mind is Narcotics Anonymous (NA). With many similarities between NA and its founding parent Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), many find AA to be a comfortable alternative when NA meetings can’t be found. With over 67,000 weekly NA meetings worldwide and increasing numbers of online NA meetings, though, there are more opportunities than ever to find the best group for you.1
What is Narcotics Anonymous?
Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that embraces the power of community support to help members find hope and freedom from addiction. The only requirement to become a NA member is a desire to stop using.
History of AA and NA
The history of Narcotics Anonymous begins with the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous.
AA was born in 1935 in Akron, Ohio from the minds of two struggling yet hopeful alcoholics: Bill Wilson and Bob Smith. Bill – a stockbroker from New York – had recently overcome his alcoholism and wanted to bring his success to other alcoholics.
He soon met and began working with Bob Smith, a surgeon and fellow alcoholic. Within 30 days, Bob had found his way to what would be the beginning of a lifetime of sobriety. Soon, the two began visiting hospitals and working together to bring their sobriety to others. Within four years, the duo had helped their first 100 alcoholics enter recovery.
Over time, these core 100 members codified the fundamental principles of recovery in what would come to be known as “The Big Book” and the 12 Steps. Now, Alcoholics Anonymous sports over 2 million members who meet in over 118,000 groups spread across 180 nations around the globe.2
Narcotics Anonymous was created in 1953 in California by a man named Jimmy Kinnon. Jimmy had been struggling with alcoholism as well as a pill addiction and found support and sobriety for his alcoholism with AA. Still battling his narcotics addiction, Jimmy saw the need for a program like AA to help recovering drug addicts, and from there, Narcotics Anonymous was born.
Today, Narcotics Anonymous groups host nearly 67,000 meetings each week across 139 nations worldwide.
The 12-Step Program
One of the main features of AA and NA is their 12-Step Programs. The 12 Steps were designed to trace the typical path to recovery and provide hope and guidance for those on their journeys.
The 12 Steps most notably feature accepting a loss of control in the face of addiction and a willingness to rely on strength and support from something other than ourselves, commonly referred to as a “Higher Power.” While a “Higher Power” is mentioned as a guiding principle behind recovery, many AA and NA members are not religious, and both groups are non-secular.
As written by NA, “Higher Power” better refers to “a Power greater than us that makes possible what seems impossible.” This power could look like God, the Universe, or even reality – whatever external source of strength brings you hope, trust, and strength.3
The 12 Steps include points such as admitting that one is powerless over addiction, accepting the strength of a Higher Power, evaluating and admitting to one’s wrongdoing, and more. You can read the original NA 12 Step language here.4
How do NA Meetings Work?
Because NA is a community-based program, each group tends to have a slightly different personality fostered by its members. Regardless, all Narcotics Anonymous meetings follow similar structures.
Anonymity is a key feature of NA that helps create a space without judgment or fear of reprisal for sharing openly and honestly. Meetings typically take place in two formats: open to the public – including family and friends of members – and closed meetings – only for members currently in recovery.
Meetings typically last for about an hour to an hour and a half and are typically either “Speaker” or “Discussion” meetings. Speaker meetings begin with an elected individual who discusses their recovery before opening the room for discussion.
In Discussion meetings, members each get the opportunity to share their experience with addiction. However, it is never mandatory to speak, and members are typically encouraged to limit their remarks to five minutes and only speak once to ensure everyone who wants to share can.
How Can You Get the Most out of In-Person Narcotics Anonymous Meetings?
To get the most out of your experience with NA, it’s highly recommended that you attend 90 meetings in your first 90 days to cement and strengthen your resolve to heal from your addiction. If you attend a session you dislike, don’t quit – instead, try out a few other groups which may have members you relate to more.
Setting time aside before and after meetings to talk to members can provide vital social support to help you on more challenging days. Additionally, selecting a sponsor can further ensure a rock-solid support system and lend additional guidance on the path to sobriety.
Online NA Meetings
Due to COVID 19, many groups opted to shift to online Narcotics Anonymous meetings. This shift to NA online has increased access to NA meetings for people who cannot take time off work, have health issues, or take care of loved ones and cannot leave the house.
There are pros and cons to NA online, most of which come down to your personal preference. Some prefer the energy and visceral feeling of support they receive in person with fellow addicts. Others who struggle with social anxiety, a lack of transportation, or an inability to attend physical meetings may find NA online the best choice for them.
It all comes down to what setting gives you the most confidence, strength, and support on your path to sobriety. Find online NA meetings to match your schedule.5
Alcoholics Anonymous vs. Narcotics Anonymous
AA meetings and NA meetings are generally quite similar. Both types of meetings rely on spiritual principles of accepting powerlessness against addiction and reliance on a power outside oneself. Both meetings are also structured around a 12 Step program and community support to hold ourselves accountable in our recovery. Additionally, both feature a message of hope and promise of freedom for those who commit themselves to the journey.
The differences primarily come to the source of addiction: drugs or alcohol. Because NA considers alcohol a drug, people with alcohol addiction can choose which is best for them. However, NA members are asked to withhold from all drugs: alcohol included.
The groups’ core texts also differ from one another. AA meetings rely on “The Big Book,” where NA meetings use “the Basic Text.” Additionally, NA meetings can run anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, while AA meetings typically cap out at 60 minutes.
How to Find NA Meetings Near You
Whether you are looking for an in-person NA meeting or an online NA meeting – there are thousands of weekly meetings at almost every hour to match your schedule. Some of the easiest ways to find an NA group are through a wellness clinic or rehabilitation center. You could also seek out a current member who can walk you through the process.
Most NA meetings are posted online. You can find local NA meetings as well as online NA meetings here.6
How to Find AA Meetings if there are No NA Meetings Near You
Similar to NA, AA meetings are conducted in-person and online. So if there are no in-person NA meetings nearby or NA online meetings that fit your schedule – try searching AA meetings instead.
Alternative Support Groups
While NA and AA meetings have worked for thousands around the world, many find they do not resonate or see success with the guiding principles of the groups. If this sounds like you – do not give up. There are plenty of alternative support groups to help you on the path to recovery.
Self-Management and Recovery Training – also known as SMART Recovery – was created as a direct alternative to AA’s more spiritually centered principles. SMART recovery takes an evidence-based approach by focusing on identifying triggering moments and rewiring old soothing techniques to create healthier habits.
Women for Sobriety
Founded in 1976, Women for Sobriety is a women-only support group that teaches women self-compassion and accountability in recovering from their addiction. This group is founded on thirteen acceptance-based principles of emotional growth, positivity, and accountabilit
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.)
Also known as Save Our Selves, SOS is an extensive network of independent addiction recovery groups that embrace community and a secular approach to recovery. SOS works with individuals suffering from nearly any addiction, including alcohol, drugs, food, and more.
LifeRing Secular Recovery
LifeRing Secular Group is a peer-run recovery group with the motto of “empower your sober self.” This program’s philosophy rests on three core principles: Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-empowerment. Unlike other groups, LifeRing encourages its members to create their road to recovery and lend support to others on their paths.
Moderation Management was created as an intermediary program to help people slow or lessen their alcohol consumption without fully abstaining. Self-professed to help “non-dependent problem drinkers,” Moderation Management teaches drinkers to set drinking limits and the tools to achieve their goals.