Narcotics Anonymous sprang from the Alcoholics Anonymous Program of the late 1940s, with meetings first emerging in the Los Angeles area of California, USA, in the early Fifties. The NA program started as a small US movement that has grown into one of the world’s oldest and largest organizations of its type.
For many years, NA grew very slowly, spreading from Los Angeles to other major North American cities and Australia in the early 1970s. In 1983, Narcotics Anonymous published its self-titled Basic Text book, which contributed to tremendous growth. Within a few years, groups had formed in Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, the Irish Republic, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Today, Narcotics Anonymous is well established throughout much of the Americas, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Newly formed groups and NA communities are now scattered throughout the Indian subcontinent, Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Narcotics Anonymous books and information pamphlets are currently available in 34 languages, with translations in process for 16 languages.
NA’s earliest self-titled pamphlet, known among members as “the White Booklet,” describes Narcotics Anonymous this way:
“NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We meet regularly to help each other stay clean. … We are not interested in what or how much you used … but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help.”
Membership is open to all drug addicts, regardless of the particular drug or combination of drugs used. When adapting NA’s First Step, the word addiction was substituted for alcohol, thus removing drug-specific language and reflecting the disease concept of addiction.
There is no social, religious, economic, racial, ethnic, national, gender, or class-status membership restrictions. There are no dues or fees for membership; while most members regularly contribute small sums to help cover the expenses of meetings, such contributions are not mandatory.
Narcotics Anonymous provides a recovery process and support network inextricably linked together. One of the keys to NA’s success is the therapeutic value of addicts working with other addicts. Members share their successes and challenges in overcoming active addiction and living drug-free productive lives through the application of the principles contained within the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of NA. These principles are the core of the Narcotics Anonymous recovery program. Principles incorporated within the steps include:
- admitting there is a problem
- seeking help
- engaging in a thorough self-examination
- confidential self-disclosure
- making amends for harm done
- helping other drug addicts who want to recover
Central to the Narcotics Anonymous program is its emphasis on practicing spiritual principles. Narcotics Anonymous itself is non-religious, and each member is encouraged to cultivate an individual understanding, religious or not, of this spiritual awakening.
Narcotics Anonymous is not affiliated with other organizations, including other twelve step programs, treatment centers, or correctional facilities. As an organization, NA does not employ professional counselors or therapists nor does it provide residential facilities or clinics. Additionally, the fellowship does not provide vocational, legal, financial, psychiatric, or medical services. NA has only one mission: to provide an environment in which addicts can help one another stop using drugs and find a new way to live.
In Narcotics Anonymous, members are encouraged to comply with complete abstinence from all drugs including alcohol. It has been the experience of NA members that complete and continuous abstinence provides the best foundation for recovery and personal growth. NA as a whole has no opinion on outside issues, including prescribed medications. Use of psychiatric medication and other medically indicated drugs prescribed by a physician and taken under medical supervision is not seen as compromising a persons recovery in NA.