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What is Narcotics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is arguably the world’s most popular alcoholism treatment establishment but not everyone is addicted to alcohol. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) was founded to help other people overcome their non-alcoholic drug addictions using the same 12 steps and guiding principles as AA.

Getting clean is scary but getting out of your shell and meeting other recovering addicts is one of the best steps to remain sober. To make NA less intimidating let’s learn about its history, how meetings work, the basic principles of NA, and how to find an NA meeting near you.

Brief History of Narcotics Anonymous

NA was founded in 1953 in Los Angeles, CA by Jimmy Kinnon and other recovering addicts. Before NA many addicts attended AA meetings, but AA’s autonomy allowed individual groups to pick and choose whether it would host addicts or alcoholics only. AA authorized Kinnon and others to base their program off AA’s 12 steps and traditions and they have been hosting meetings since.

How Meetings Operate

Most NA meetings last approximately an hour and are led by a ‘chair.’ Though every NA is different there are basics found at most meetings.

  • Introduction – The chair introduces themselves and allows those in the room to introduce themselves to the group.
  • Regular Readings – Reading of the 12 steps and traditions
  • Other Readings – The chair may have other readings depending on the meeting and topic
  • Sharing – Attendees share their problems, triumphs, and experiences. There is normally a topic though most meetings allow you to talk about whatever you want to if it’s relevant to the meeting and group. You are never required to speak or share.
  • Speaker – A speaker may share their sobriety story and how NA has helped.
  • Donations – All NA meetings are independently funded and run. Meetings will ask for voluntary donations to help keep the lights on and a coffee pot full.
  • Key Tags – NA operates a ‘key tag’ system as a regular part of meetings. Tags symbolize different points in sobriety from the 24-hours to multiple decades. Most aren’t getting sober for key tags, but these mementos are positive reinforcers of your work and daily reminders to keep on the path to long term sobriety.

Basic Principles of NA

12 Steps

The 12 steps are the NA program. Those who complete all 12 steps have a much better chance at lifetime sobriety though anyone benefits from simply walking into the rooms of NA. Let’s get an overview of those steps so you know what to expect before going to your first meeting.

  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 the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Narcotics Anonymous Meeting

12 Traditions

NA also operates on 12 traditions. The 12 traditions help dictate how a meeting is conducted, how NA conducts themselves with other organizations, the importance of anonymity, and more. You can find more information on all 12 traditions at NA’s website.


What does the anonymous portion of Narcotics Anonymous mean? According to both AA and NA, “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” The idea of anonymity is both to protect the rooms but more importantly to get more out of them. In NA you are not your family, your wealth, or the car you drive, you are an addict who needs help. No one is more important in NA room than others.


Addicts find themselves in the rooms of NA after they learn they can’t beat their addiction on their own. The fellowship and friendship of NA allows you to share your struggles judgment-free and to speak with people who legitimately understand your problems. Talking to someone who understands helps you know you’re not alone.


There are many mentions of God or a higher power in NA rooms, but you don’t need to be religious to intend. To complete the 12 steps, you’re asked to turn your life over to a higher power or God as you understand them and work through spiritual principles. God or ‘God as you understand it’ can be nature, your cat, the rooms of NA, or even a doorknob – as long as you’re reaching outside of yourself for spiritual help and guidance.


Sponsorship is an important part of accountability and discipline in NA. Those who have completed the 12 steps (sponsors) help direct and guide others (sponsees) through their own 12-step journey. The sponsor may offer direct advice, have the sponsee participate in readings and other steps, or may simply act as a sounding board. Sponsorship gives more direct help for addicts than meetings may be able to provide.

Finding an NA Meeting

NA is one of the most popular drug treatment programs in the world. According to NA numbers, there are currently 70,000 plus meetings spread across all 50 states and in 144 countries. Finding meetings aren’t difficult even in smaller and rural towns. You can head online to find NA meetings around you or you call NA directly for any other questions.

Moving Forward with NA’s Help

Narcotics Anonymous has helped hundreds of thousands of addicts live happy, joyous, and free, and their rooms can help you too. If you’re tired of struggling alone with your addiction head to an NA meeting to learn, speak your mind, enjoy the company the others, and make moves against your addiction.

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