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 Narcotics Anonymous

March 30, 2022
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

Narcotics Anonymous, also called as NA, is a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) where individuals with drug addiction problems can seek support in the recovery and healing process. The support is often offered by recovering drug addicts or individuals who have overcome their drug addictions.  

Thousands of NA members hold roughly 76,000 closed and open narcotics anonymous meetings weekly in about 143 countries. It is a safe space for individuals to seek help without being judged harshly for their addiction problems. One can also seek virtual help for addiction treatment through Virtual NA. All virtual meetings are organized by language and day of the week and are conducted on local device time. There is also a Narcotics Anonymous Just for today app which is a paid App that shares meditation text from the Narcotics Anonymous fellowship’s JFTNA.ORG website. There are also various Apps that let you check NA meetings near you as well as narcotics anonymous schedule and narcotics anonymous event calendar.

About Narcotics Anonymous – A brief history             

NA was founded in 1953 and shares the same principles and practices as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Membership to NA is free, and the group has no association with any organizations outside of NA including government institutes, religious groups, law enforcement agencies, or medical and psychiatric associations.  

Just like members of AA use the “Big Book” as a guide to recover from alcohol, members of NA use a primary text called the “Basic Text.” As a guide for their recovery process. The Narcotics Anonymous literature defines itself as a program “for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle.” Narcotics Anonymous books and information pamphlets are currently available in 55 languages, with translations in process for 16 languages.

Narcotics Anonymous 12 steps – A path to recovering from addiction

The 12-step is similar to the 12 steps of AA, the only difference being the substitution of the word “alcohol” to “addiction”.  Following are the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous:    

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.

What Is an NA Meeting and who can attend?

NA meetings are the foundation of the Narcotics Anonymous recovery program. NA meetings are free of cost and the only basic requirement for becoming a member of Narcotics Anonymous is “the desire to stop using”. Members meet as often as possible and share their trials and tribulations with their recovery process. These meetings allow people to offer their support as well as receive guidance and help from their peers in recovery.

There are two types of NA meetings; “open meetings” are for both members and non-members and “closed meetings” are only for members and prospective members. Usually, people who are there to support their loved ones and who are not in recovery themselves attend “open meetings”.  These people can be part of Narcotics Anonymous for families or Nar-Anon Family Groups which is a 12-Step Program for Families & Friends of Addicts.

A typical narcotics anonymous meeting format includes people introducing themselves by their first name. Individuals can share their struggles with addictions, although an explicit description of the type of drugs and the high achieved by it is discouraged. The focus is always on the consequences of drug abuse and the recovery process.  People receive sobriety chips to celebrate recovery milestones like a month, 6 months, a year, etc. These chips have the Narcotics Anonymous symbol on them which consists of a circle, a square and a pyramid. The Circle stands for the total universal program that has room for all manifestations of the recovering and the recovered person. The square base is goodwill; the four sides signify God, Self, Society and Service. Rising as a pyramid they meet at the point which signifies Freedom.

NA meetings do not focus on any particular drugs and people even with alcohol addiction are also welcomed.  The main purpose of NA is to help people overcome their addictions and put them on the path to recovery. “Being Anonymous” is essential to NA meetings and members agree and understand that what is discussed in the meeting stays in the meeting and that they cannot label a person as an addict in public. Under the veil of anonymity, people are free to truly open up about their struggles with addiction. It is not unusual for a new member to develop a filial relationship with a sponsor. A sponsor is a senior member who typically has been sober for at least a year and feels capable enough for helping other members work through the 12 steps.

Most NA meetings end with a Narcotics Anonymous serenity prayer and the following is the adaptation that’s most often used.

“God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things, I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.”

This brings us to the point, is narcotics anonymous religious?

While the 12 steps mention “higher power” and “God”, NA is not a religious organization. People are encouraged to interpret their own versions for the words “higher power” and “God”. People who are atheists or agnostics choose to substitute these words with “my truth”, “my reality” or any other words that resonate with their emotional feelings about their recovery process. Alternatively, they may also choose to seek out secular groups like AA Agnostica, AA Beyond Belief, Secular AA, Smart Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery), Realistic Recovery, LifeRing, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), Moderation Management and many more. 

Narcotics Anonymous in India

The National Survey on Extent and Pattern for Substance Use in India found that nearly 3.1 crore people in India are estimated to be cannabis users, out of which 1.3 crores (1.2 per cent) use ganja and charas, while the rest consume bhang. Nearly 44% of drug addicts try to give up drugs but only one-fourth receive any kind of treatment. Narcotics Anonymous hopes to reach out to addicts who haven’t yet been able to overcome their addictions.

SOSONA (Society of Service of Narcotics Anonymous), is the service body for Narcotics Anonymous in India. Through their website, persons struggling with addiction can look for material on addiction recovery, find a meeting in their state as well as sign up for meetings online.

In closing, addictions to Narcotics can wreak havoc on an individual’s health, mental wellbeing, personal relationships, societal standing and job prospects. Narcotics Anonymous is a safe space for people with addictions to talk about their addiction issues and seek recovery through the experiences of fellow recovering addicts.


Narcotics Anonymous

Just For Today – NA 1.0 – description

Umhau. J., Swaim. E., (2022, Feb) Narcotics Anonymous Meetings Can Help Drug Addictions

Buddy.T., Swaim. E. (2022, March) What Is the Serenity Prayer?

NAR-ANON Family groups

An Introduction to NA Meetings

NA symbol

Magnitude of Substance Abuse in India, 2019.

Society Of Service Of Narcotics Anonymous