What is Narcotics Anonymous?
Narcotics Anonymous describes itself as a “nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem”, and has helped countless thousands of people across the world escape substance abuse and addiction.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a global association of self-help groups providing assistance to individuals struggling with drug addiction who have committed to a life of abstinence. Using the twelve-step model initially developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous is (after AA itself) the second largest twelve-step organisation globally, and is the world’s largest recovery programme for drug addiction specifically.
NA is comprised of a large number of individual groups running on lines agreed by the NA World Service Committee, hosting meetings (over 67,000 weekly meetings across 139 countries in 2016) at which recovering drug addicts can come for advice, support and fellowship. The requirement for membership of NA and attendance at NA meetings is “a desire to stop using” substances of abuse; membership is free and meetings do not charge attendance fees, though donations are welcome.
The history of Narcotics Anonymous
NA was founded in 1953 in California, by a group including former drug addict Jimmy Kinnon, as a fellowship of mutually supporting groups following AA’s twelve-step model and traditions. In 1954, NA printed its Little Brown Book, containing the 12 steps towards abstinence from drug use. Throughout the 1950s the movement grew slowly and retrenched at times, but in 1959 Kinnon and others restarted the organisation and it began to grow once again through the 1960s; by 1972 NA was holding over 70 weekly meetings including in Germany, Australia and Bermuda, while by the early 1980s there were over 1000 different meetings across the world. The NA World Service Office opened in 1977, and NA has hosted annual World Conferences since 1971.
Principles of Narcotics Anonymous
NA is founded on the ‘Twelve Steps’ and ‘Twelve Traditions’ initially developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, which among other things establish the organisation as a self-supporting nonprofit entity dedicated to helping individuals struggling with drug abuse. As noted above, the only requirement for membership of NA and attendance at meetings is a desire to stop using drugs. The 12-step programme includes a commitment to a “higher power” – sometimes explicitly “God” – which some attendees find inappropriate.
NA members commit to assisting each other in their quests for abstinence by sharing advice and support in meetings; NA promises that “any addict can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live”. Attendance at any NA meeting, and any content therein, is entirely confidential.
How does an individual become a member of Narcotics Anonymous?
Anyone can attend an “open” NA meeting; “closed” meetings are limited to confessed drug addicts and anyone who believes they may have a problem with drugs. Regular attendees at the same meeting are understood to be members of a “Home Group” who can give input into how the group acts and how meeting should be conducted.
What can be expected from a Narcotics Anonymous meeting?
The formats of NA meetings can vary – not simply in the sense of being either “open” or “closed”, but in terms of the content of meetings. Some meetings include readings of NA literature, while others have an “open sharing” element where any attendees can speak. In many meetings, at least part of the session will consist of a “round robin” element where each attendee, sitting in a circle, shares experiences, advice, or merely thoughts on their situation. There is no compulsion to speak, though every attendee is encouraged to do so.
Does Narcotics Anonymous work?
Attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings is no guarantee of sobriety and recovery; however since its formation NA has helped countless individuals across the world attain and sustain abstinence, and it is commonly recommended as part of the recovery process following a stay in residential rehabilitation (rehab).
Choosing a Centre for Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous groups for different substances : NA provides support for addicts and users of all drugs, and meetings are typically substance-agnostic. Occasional meetings targeting addicts of specific substances may be hosted; alternatively, other organisations providing support for addicts of specific substances also run similar meetings and twelve-step models.
Advantages of Narcotics Anonymous
The advice, support, and fellowship provided by NA groups are often hugely beneficial to individuals going through recovery – or attempting to do so – who need and value the encouragement and sponsorship of others who understand their situation and have been through similar experiences. The no-pressure format of meetings and free membership, and the commitment to confidentiality, make NA an extremely inclusive organisation backed up by the reassurance that attendance will not become public knowledge. With weekly meetings hosted across the UK, NA is typically the most accessible resource for addicts other than the NHS.
The role of counselling
Counselling – whether alongside attendance at NA groups or not – can be extremely beneficial for addicts in recovery who need occasional or regular support during the recovery process whilst getting life back on track. Addiction counsellors are active in many parts of the country and are typically engaged on a private basis, by appointment. NA groups can help individuals get in touch with suitable counsellors, and while NA itself does not offer counselling, many counsellors retain links to various kinds with NA groups and individual attendees.
Staying clean and sober
No matter how severe your addiction or how long it has lasted, overcoming any physical dependence and go through detoxification and withdrawal – arduous though this may be – is only the first phase of recovery; staying sober and clean over the long term is an ongoing process requiring dedication and perseverance. The support of groups like NA has proved invaluable for many addicts in the UK and beyond, and many addiction specialists – including professionals at residential rehab facilities – will recommend attendance at NA meetings as a foundation of support during your recovery process.
Take control of your life – get started on the road to recovery
If you’re struggling with addiction, and are prepared to acknowledge your condition and ask for help, that help is out there in the form of a great many facilities and organisations now active across the country. Speak with your GP and/or an addiction specialist today to discuss what help might be available to you, and seize back control of your life from the grip of addiction; take the first step on the path back to happiness by picking up the phone today.
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