While Alcoholics Anonymous started as a program for alcoholics, today it attracts a broader fellowship which often includes addicts of all types. In recent years, climbing rates of addiction have brought a dramatic growth in the fellowships of both Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. To get a sense for which fellowship is the most popular when and where, we compiled every NA and AA meeting in the U.S. and analyzed when and where these meetings are occurring.
Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935, was the first of a continually growing number of 12-step programs. Narcotics Anonymous followed suit in 1954, utilizing a virtually identical 12-step model to emphasize recovery from drug addiction. While AA remains the larger fellowship by far, both programs endeavor to help the struggling addict achieve total abstinence from drugs and alcohol. As a result, they share a positive terminology reflected in the wordcloud of meeting titles above.
While the total number of AA meetings more than doubles the number of NA meetings across the country, the younger fellowship has visible strongholds in the Deep South as well as the Northwest. NA also dominates a patch of the eastern seaboard, spanning west from New Hampshire all the way to Indiana. One exception to that NA sprawl? Ohio: AA’s birthplace.
With few exceptions, recovery meetings seem most prevalent in the American landscape’s scenic corners: Maine, Oregon, Washington, and Florida are each home to large numbers of recovery meetings. The congregation of recovery-minded folks in serene settings is ripe with interpretive potential: Do groups spring up organically, or do people move with recovery in mind? Utah is a particularly interesting case: Do restrictive drug and alcohol laws make the state an ideal destination for recovering addicts wary of temptation?
Each program is present in every state, but where recovery meetings are relatively few in number, NA represents a larger portion of the total meetings per-capita. This is particularly true of predominantly rural states, such as Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Oklahoma, where the scourge of meth and prescription drug use may warrant NA’s explicit focus on drug addiction.
Long-term recovery requires members of both fellowships to balance their meeting attendance with other obligations – namely, work. The increase in meetings held at noon and in the spike observed between 7 and 8 p.m. indicates scheduling to accommodate the typical workday; members can make a meeting on their lunch hour, or easily catch one after work.