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Narcotics Anonymous

    Quick links for Narcotics Anonymous

    Throughout the world, there are 67,000 Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings (1) taking place every week.

    For those addicted to drugs, it provides a safe environment to open up about their experiences of addiction.

    Through regular attendance and the support of a sponsor, millions have gained a life of sobriety and healing that they long hoped for.

    Narcotics Anonymous is a fellowship group that provides support throughout the world for people who have drug problems.

    It supports drug users to gain an abstinent lifestyle. Whatever type of drug a person uses, they are welcome to join NA if they want a sober life.

    What are narcotics?

    People gathered together for a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    People gathered together for a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    Narcotics are a group of drugs that work on the opioid receptors in your brain. This has the effect of relieving pain.

    Despite this, narcotics are not necessarily made from the opium plant.

    Opioids and narcotics include:

    The point needs to be made, though, that society tends to refer to narcotics as any opioid-type substance and, in terms of NA groups, “narcotics” is a term used as an umbrella term that includes all drugs.

    NA groups welcome people who are addicted to any type of drug, including but not limited to cocaine, ketamine and benzodiazepines.

    The only requirement to join NA is that the person wants to quit using drugs.

    What occurs at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting?

    Narcotics Anonymous support group assembling in a sports hall

    Narcotics Anonymous support group assembling in a sports hall

    There are different types of NA meetings.

    Before making the decision to go to one, it’s beneficial to commit to trying at least three different meetings.

    The reason for this is that an NA meeting on one day will feel different to an NA  meeting on another day.

    One of the main goals of NA is to make people feel welcome. Newcomers will be invited to speak.

    However, there is no pressure for a person to give their name or to speak if they don’t want to – hence the “anonymous”.

    There are three types of NA meetings:

    • 12 Step-based – These meetings are focused on one of the 12 Steps and people are invited to share their experiences of how they are finding that particular step in relation to their recovery journey.
    • Discussion-based – These Narcotics Anonymous sessions are usually facilitated by a speaker who might share some of their recovery experiences. After this, they’ll open up a discussion and encourage interaction.
    • Speaker and listener-focused – This is when a Narcotics Anonymous group invites attendees to share their experiences around addiction one at a time. The emphasis is on listening, rather than discussion.

    Format of Narcotics Anonymous meetings

    Attendees sat in a circle and smiling during a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    Attendees sat in a circle and smiling during a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    The three types of meetings mentioned above will fall into one of these two formats:

    1. Open Narcotics Anonymous meetings

    An open meeting is where anyone is invited to attend an NA meeting.

    This is an excellent space for NA members to invite the people they care for to be a part of the group.

    This provides the opportunity for the addicted person to share their experiences of addiction with people they care about in a safe environment.

    Open meetings are also useful to attend if a person is interested in finding out more about what NA meetings are like.

    2. Closed Narcotics Anonymous meetings

    Closed meetings are only for those who are NA members. This means anyone who is on the path to addiction recovery.

    This includes people who are addicted to drugs who haven’t been to an NA group before, but who want to quit taking drugs.

    The 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous

    Narcotics Anonymous recoveree speaking with their sponsor

    Narcotics Anonymous recoveree speaking with their sponsor

    The 12 Steps are the same as the 12 Steps for Alcoholics Anonymous with the exception that “addiction” replaces any “alcoholism” references.

    The steps refer to a “higher power”, but this doesn’t mean God for every person who attends NA. (More on this coming up.)

    The 12 Steps followed at Narcotics Anonymous

    1. We admitted 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.

    Is Narcotics Anonymous a religious group?

    Two people holding hands at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    Two people holding hands at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    It may be surprising to find out that Narcotics Anonymous is not a religious group.

    It is what is known as a faith-based group. In the 12 Steps outlined above, there is a reference to God as well as a Power.

    This is to provide a spiritual option for attendees.

    Some people will believe in God, whilst others will have defined another higher power for themselves.  This could be the universe or nature or whatever happens brings them faith and strength.

    The benefits of Narcotics Anonymous groups

    Members comforting one another at a Narcotics Anonymous group meeting

    Members comforting one another at a Narcotics Anonymous group meeting

    NA is hugely effective for millions of people throughout the world who are living with addiction.

    It provides a way to recover.

    There are many ways in which it does this, but two of the most influential factors of this are:

    The sense of community

    One of the most effective aspects of a person achieving a sober lifestyle is social connection. (2)

    NA groups provide a space where people are able to connect with others experiencing similar addiction problems.

    This type of setting gives people a chance to improve their interpersonal skills and think outside of their usual mind-space.

    Due to it being a peer-led group, advice is often well-received and very helpful.

    Having a Narcotics Anonymous sponsor

    When a person becomes a member of NA they will be linked to a sponsor. This will be a person who is also in recovery and who is following the 12 Steps.

    They will almost always be further into the programme.

    The sponsor relationship has many benefits. It keeps the new member connected to NA and the sponsor will share their experiences.

    This can be very helpful for the new member.

    They usually have a connection outside of meetings where the person can get support around managing cravings and around relapse.

    Will Narcotics Anonymous work for me?

    Man smiling and talking whilst at a Narcotics Anonymous group meeting

    Man smiling and talking whilst at a Narcotics Anonymous group meeting

    There is much evidence that supports how effective peer-led addiction groups are. Research shows that Narcotics Anonymous groups (3) – along with other physical and psychological treatments –  provide the most efficient means to recovery.

    If you want to quit any type of drug, it is going to be hard but it will always be possible.

    Thousands of people throughout the UK are quitting drugs every year.

    It’s achievable for you as well. It will take determination as well as a lot of honesty on your part, both with yourself and with others.

    Accessing a rehabilitation programme that offers a full package of treatments offers the highest chances of achieving a sober lifestyle.

    Contact OK Rehab for more information on treatment options in your local area.

    Other types of treatment

    Group therapy session in progress at a drug and alcohol rehab in Derbyshire

    People sat in group therapy

    As well as groups like NA, rehabilitation programmes offer physical and psychological treatments.

    Physical treatments are especially important for those who have developed physical dependencies.

    This is very common for people addicted to heroin and benzodiazepines, and a detox is usually necessary. The safest way to undergo a detox is under a doctor’s supervision.

    This way a tapered detox can take place and the person will be supported to be as comfortable as possible.

    Psychological therapies are available too. These are essential in providing the basis for long-term recovery in relation to understanding the causes of the addiction.

    During therapy, healthy coping strategies are identified that a person can use to manage responses to triggers and cravings.

    How did Narcotics Anonymous come about?

    Empty chairs in a rehab set up for a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    Empty chairs in a rehab set up for a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    NA was founded by Jimmy Kinnon in the 1950s. It evolved out of the Alcoholics Anonymous group where a need for a drug-focused group was identified.

    It follows the 12-step principles but makes these applicable to drug addiction.

    NA is the largest 12-step group in the world after AA.

    There are various NA publications which NA groups tend to follow as a way of maintaining a life of abstinence.

    Final thoughts: How do I join Narcotics Anonymous?

    Recovery group holding hands at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    Recovery group holding hands at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting

    Attending Narcotics Anonymous groups enables thousands of people to maintain a life of sobriety.

    The sense of connection, sharing, and receiving advice to and from others in a similar circumstance is very empowering.

    There are many treatment options for narcotic addiction in the UK.

    It’s commonly accepted that a holistic approach involving a variety of treatments including attending peer-led groups, like NA, is the most effective approach to healing.

    Anyone is welcome to join Narcotics Anonymous so long as they have a drug problem and want to quit

    It doesn’t matter how long you have been using the drug; if you feel it has become an issue and want to stop, then you will be welcome to attend meetings.

    To find out about your local Narcotics Anonymous groups (4) and other drug treatment options in your area, contact OK Rehab.

    References for Narcotics Anonymous



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