Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are perhaps the best-known voluntary community support groups for those seeking help in their recovery from alcohol and/or drug abuse. Their local presence and meetings allow anyone the option to attend at no cost, share their stories and struggles, and find encouragement from others who are also facing and fighting addiction. Since their inception over 60 years ago, these groups have become widely recognized cultural institutions, both for the broad support networks they provide as well as their 12-step approach to healing the effects of substance use.
Tens of thousands of AA and NA groups meet around the world every year – but how accessible are these support groups to the substance users who need them the most? We gathered data on all recorded AA and NA meeting places in the United States, as well as estimates of alcohol and drug abuse, to determine which areas have the greatest availability of support groups compared to the prevalence of substance abuse and addiction. Where is the need for recovery best being served by these programs? Read on to find out.
The number of AA meeting locations in each state, relative to the population, can vary substantially. In first place is Vermont, with about 1.92 AA meeting locations for every 100,000 residents – the most in the nation. In second is Alaska with 0.81 locations per 100,000, but this runner-up has less than half the availability of AA locations as Vermont. Wyoming, the least populous state in the nation, places third with 0.68 meeting locations per 100,000.
Not all states have such readily available meeting places for those looking to recover from alcohol abuse. Although some AA meetings may occur unofficially, South Dakota has zero listed records for AA meeting places on AA.org. It is the only state not to be listed on AA.org’s local search, but hopefully there are local alcohol treatment groups who are not registered on AA’s site. New Jersey is second, with only 0.06 meeting locations per 100,000 residents. And despite having numerous meeting locations listed, Texas also has nearly 27 million residents, making it the state with the third-least locations available. New Hampshire, neighbor to national first-place Vermont, surprisingly has the fourth-lowest number of AA meetings relative to the population, with only 0.075 locations per 100,000 residents.
Having enough meeting locations to serve the recovery and support needs of a state’s residents is important, but just as important is how far people will have to travel to get to a meeting. Naturally, the size of some states makes this easier or harder. Rhode Island, the smallest state in the country, places first on this measure with the lowest number of average miles that AA attendees would have to travel to find a meeting: only 18.7 miles. Connecticut, another small Northeastern state, comes in second with an average of 19.3 miles; Delaware places third with 25.5 miles. And Vermont, first in the nation for relative availability of AA meetings, is also fourth for average distance to a meeting: 27.8 miles.
Conversely, larger states tend to mean greater distances for AA attendees to travel. Alaska may be second in the nation for availability of AA meetings per 100,000 residents, but it’s also the largest state in the country, which places it last on this list: Alaska residents looking for an AA meeting could have to travel an average of 308.7 miles to find one. In second is Nevada – despite being host to the lavish parties of Las Vegas, those seeking recovery from alcohol abuse would have to travel an average of 191.3 miles in this large, sparsely populated state. And much like Alaska, Wyoming residents may face challenges getting to a meeting regardless of how many are available. Despite being third in the country for the number of meeting locations per 100,000 residents, it’s in the fifth-to-last place for average distance to a meeting: 155.8 miles.
While the number of AA meeting places available relative to a state’s population is a good estimate of the availability of these services, we wanted to see a rough estimate of who might need AA’s services by looking at the number of binge drinkers in each state. Binge drinking, defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting, can be a risk factor for alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, and many alcohol-related health problems.
Wisconsin, North Dakota, Illinois, South Dakota, and Colorado have the most binge drinkers per 100,000 adult residents, but none of these states are featured in the top 5 for the most AA locations. In addition, South Dakota doesn’t have any AA locations listed at all. On the other side, Utah, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi have the least number of binge drinkers per 100,000 in the country. Utah is an unsurprising No. 1 due to its large Mormon population which abstains from alcohol.
We’ve seen how the presence of AA meetings can vary throughout the country, but what about NA meetings? Support groups for those seeking to reclaim their lives from drug addiction show a somewhat different national pattern from meetings focusing on alcohol abuse. When it comes to NA meetings per 100,000 residents, Delaware is in first place with 7.59 NA locations per 100,000 residents – a rate nearly four times greater than AA’s first-place state, Vermont. Delaware, however, has been dealing with a heroin epidemic, so there is a growing need for treatment. Wyoming, which was third in the nation for availability of AA meetings, also places second for NA locations with 7.36 per 100,000 residents. Pennsylvania and Maryland placed third and fourth, with 7.36 and 7.25 respectively. Altogether, NA meeting locations in these states are far more commonplace than AA meetings in any state, perhaps due to the heroin epidemic in this country.
On the other hand, Texas places last in the country, with only 1.82 NA locations per 100,000 residents – not nearly enough to serve its 26.9 million residents or the many drug abusers (see below). Alabama places second to last, with 2.15 locations, and Mississippi is third to last with 2.54 locations per 100,000 residents. Still, this approaches the density of AA locations by the state placing first in the nation, Vermont.
One result of a far greater density of NA meeting locations is a reduction in the distance that attendees will typically have to travel. While Rhode Island took first place for AA meetings with an average of 18.7 miles, New Jersey comes in first for NA locations with attendees having to travel an average of merely 3.9 miles. The small state of Rhode Island takes second at 4.7 miles, while Maryland places third at 4.8. Altogether, 28 states have a shorter average distance to an NA meeting place than the state with the shortest average distance to an AA location, another sign of just how prominent NA has become.
Due to its large size, Alaska places last for average distance to travel to an NA meeting: 124.3 miles. Since Montana is also large in size, NA attendees would have to travel an average of 58.2 miles to get to a meeting.
We also considered the number of those who reported experiencing drug abuse or dependence in each state compared to the availability of NA support groups. Alabama places first with each meeting place having to serve up to 944 drug users. Notably, even this number still represents greater availability to drug abusers than the first-place state for availability of AA locations to alcohol abusers.
How about those states with the lowest ratio of NA locations to drug abusers? Wyoming has a meeting location available for every 212 drug users. The small state of Hawaii has one location for every 288 users, while Maryland takes third with about 290 drug abusers to every NA location.
Finally, we looked at which cities across the country had the greatest number of NA meetings per week. Baltimore, Maryland takes first with more than 400 NA meetings in the city every week, while Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is second with over 300 weekly meetings. These two cities far outstrip third-place Brooklyn, New York, which only has nearly 200 meetings per week. However, all of these cities have one thing in common: They’re in the midst of a heroin and opioid abuse epidemic that has swept the Northeast in recent years, which is certain to increase the demand for these local support groups. Fifth-place Pittsburgh and eighth-place Manhattan follow this pattern as well.
The West Coast has its share of major NA hubs as well: Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego, and Sacramento all make the top 20 cities for most weekly NA meetings. And even though Texas and Arizona both showed a very low relative availability of NA locations, several of their major cities such as Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Phoenix still appear in the top 20.
Finding Help and Support for Recovery From Drugs and Alcohol
Across the United States, millions of people experience addiction to drugs and/or alcohol – and many are seeking help. The massive numbers of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meeting places across the country show that recovering substance users have a continuing need for community support. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or dependency, there’s hope. Recovery.org can help to connect you with professional treatment options and support programs that are tailored to meet your needs and fit your life. Contact Recovery.org at 1-888-319-2606Who Answers? today to find the support you deserve for a healthy recovery.
Alcoholics Anonymous meeting locations and Narcotics Anonymous meeting locations and times were acquired by scraping www.aa.org and www.na.org in late January. More locations and meetings may have been added to or deleted from the websites since. More locations and meetings might exist that are not listed on the site.
State populations and under-18 population percentages were taken from July 1, 2014 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Average miles to AA and NA meetings were calculated using state land areas in square miles and the density of meetings in each state. Estimates of the number of binge drinkers and people experiencing drug abuse/dependency were taken from 18-and-over state prevalence estimates provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
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