Narcotics Anonymous

Updated March 21, 2018
support group meeting

Narcotics Anonymous, otherwise known as NA is an international organization with the goal of helping those who want to remain clean from drug use. This program is made up of people from all different backgrounds who are trying to stay clean and are looking for an abstinence only approach to doing so.

Narcotics Anonymous Meetings

NA offers meetings in 139 countries and attempts to be as inclusive as possible. On a weekly basis they hold around 67,000 meetings and use the 12 step program model as their structure. The program notes it is not affiliated with any religion, other organizations, political groups, or law enforcement groups. It is always free to join and participate regardless of your background. The only noted requirement is that the attendee wants to remain or become clean from using drugs. It is up to the participant to attend as many or as few meetings as they choose. New members are encouraged to attend one meeting a day for 90 days to help jump start their process.

What Happens in a Meeting

To join a meeting, a current or new member can search the NA website to find the location and time of the next meeting. Apps are also available for Apple and Android users to locate meetings even more quickly. Meetings are held in coffee shops, churches, and treatment centers as these tend to be more affordable spaces to rent or use. Volunteer members run NA meetings, which are either discussion oriented or have a guest speaker. During discussion meetings, members can share the impact drugs have had on their life and how their recovery is going. During speaker meetings, a guest will share some helpful information about various topics related to recovery. At the end of the meeting, participants may stand in a circle and say a prayer. The program notes this is not religiously based, but spiritual.

Narcotics Anonymous Symbol

The NA symbol is made up of a circle with a diamond in the center of it. The outer circle represents freedom and the universal nature of the program. The four sides of the diamond represent self, God, society, and service. The inside of the diamond represents good will. This symbol can be found on coins, chips, and other products related to NA and has come to represent recovery. Having one of these coins can be a sense of pride as it denotes a certain amount of days clean from drug use.

Narcotics Anonymous White Booklet
Narcotics Anonymous White Booklet

Products Available for Purchase

Products are available for purchase in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Products are organized in various sections and can be found by searching under recovery products, key-tags and medallions, specialty products, service material, and literature. Some products include books, pamphlets, keychains, key-tags, posters, mugs, and journals.

The Effectiveness of NA

NA, like other structured drug programs can be immensely helpful for some but can also be lacking in important aspects of recovery for others. Depending on what you are looking for in terms of drug addiction treatment, NA may or may not be the most helpful place.

The Pros

For many NA members, some pros of attending meetings regularly include:

  • Providing a place to be accountable for your actions
  • A place to connect with others who may have similar experiences
  • A consistent, safe space for those who would like support during their recovery
  • A free, inclusive environment where drug abstinence is prioritized

The Cons

Some cons of this 12 step program include:

  • Not providing enough structure to those who are detoxing or need a higher level of care
  • Does not provide professional support
  • May be triggering for some to attend meetings
  • Does not necessarily address underlying issues of drug use
  • Provides one method for recovery, which may not work for all
  • Members are encouraged to focus on their recovery and not share graphic drug related details as it may be too activating for other members which can be discouraging for some who need to process this aspect of their story
  • Despite noting that they are not religiously affiliated, God is a part of their symbol, as well as their closing prayer

Research on NA

Researchers note this program does tend to help those in recovery from drug use, but it is most effective when it is coupled with professional treatment. They also note those who believe in a helpful support network tend to attend more meetings and have higher motivations to seek help. NA can be a great choice for some, but may not work well for everyone in recovery.

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Narcotics Anonymous