About the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) 12-Step Recovery Program

Narcotics Anonymous at a glance:
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an addiction recovery organization that was founded in 1953.
  • There is no cost to attend, and the program is open to anyone who wants to overcome any substance dependence.
  • The NA recovery method uses 12 steps that emphasize reliance on social support and a Higher Power.
  • Even though the NA 12 steps use the Higher Power concept, the program is not affiliated with any religion.
  • Sharing at these drug recovery meetings is voluntary, and attendance is confidential.

What Is Narcotics Anonymous?

NA was developed in 1953. Although the organization was originally founded to address narcotic abuse and addiction, Narcotics Anonymous now welcomes anyone who is trying to overcome any type of drug or alcohol dependence.

Narcotics Anonymous began as an offshoot of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program. The 12-step NA recovery program was designed to parallel the one used by Alcoholics Anonymous, and it was meant to be a recovery pathway – with all participants following a set of member guidelines and supporting each other’s efforts to stay clean.

Today, the 12 steps of recovery are now widely recognizable outside of the many addiction programs (such as NA and AA) that currently exist.

Why NA?

NA is an anonymous 12-step program. It offers a safe space where members do not have to give their name or any other identifying information. The program is open to people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and religions. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve used or what you’ve done – only that you want help.2

NA’s drug recovery meetings are free to attend. There are no fees, dues, or pledges. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using drugs. The organization is not affiliated with any other organizations or political, religious, or law enforcement groups.2

Finding a Narcotics Anonymous meeting is usually not that difficult, as meetings are held in most communities in the United States and in other countries.

What Are the NA 12 Steps?

Similar to AA, NA helps participants recover by walking them through a process of 12 steps. Although the 12 steps of NA are meant to be explored in order, many people who are struggling with addictions will visit and revisit various steps over time:

Narcotics Anonymous 12 Steps to Recovery

1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable.

When you see the disasters your addiction has caused and acknowledge your real need for help, you face reality with humility and open the door for a changed life.

2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

You learn that your life can turn from hopeless to hopeful – because there is a stronger Power outside of yourself that is able to piece your life back together and renew you. You have the personal choice to decide what or who that Higher Power is for you.

3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Your heart, mind and will take action by surrendering to this Higher Power. You trust that this Higher Power will guide your behaviors with better wisdom and care than you can do by yourself.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

As you gently try to peel away the many layers of your being and better understand your depths, you allow yourself to experience a much fuller healing, restoration and freedom.

5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Now that you’ve more closely examined yourself, you gather your courage and confess – to yourself, to others and to your Higher Power – the darkness that you find inside yourself. By admitting what you’ve been previously hiding, you can better accept yourself and make changes in your relationships.

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

By working through your fears and uncertainties about becoming a better person and making the changes you need to make in your life, you prepare yourself to invite your Higher Power to change you.

7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

As you ask your Higher Power to remove your character flaws, you also take actions that give your Higher Power greater ability to work changes into your life.

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Here, you assess all the ways you could have possibly caused harm to others and also to yourself. You then make yourself ready to restore these relationships through both words and actions.

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

First, you need to face your fears and expectations in making these amends; you try to forgive anyone who needs your forgiveness and you sensitively evaluate where making amends would do more harm than good. You then take the risk of feeling vulnerable and make amends to these individuals.

10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

You make it a habit to reassess yourself for any future wrongs you may commit as you strive towards better behavior, and you confess your wrongs as soon as you become aware of them.

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.

In this step, you continue to increase your reliance on your Higher Power as your source of guidance and as your strength to walk according to this guidance.

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.

By this point in the Narcotics Anonymous 12 steps, you have renewed yourself through your unique spiritual pathway, having found genuine hope in being able to stay clean and recover. You aim to both continue this pathway, yourself, and also share your journey and hope with others.3

The Spirituality of the 12 Steps

Did You Know?

According to the NA website, the number of members and meetings has increased dramatically since the publication of its Basic Text in 1983. Each week, 61,000 NA meetings are held in 129 countries around the world.

Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous is not affiliated with a particular religion. However, as is true of many 12-step recovery programs, NA’s recovery program may be considered “spiritual,”as the 12 steps of NA refer to “God” or a “Higher Power.”

Some individuals may already feel comfortable with this spiritual component of the recovery program. Some may feel neutral about it but may discover during the recovery process that they end up benefitting from this spiritual element. Others may not feel comfortable with any type of spirituality in their recovery process. These individuals can seek out one of the few secular 12-step programs or one of the handful of non-12-step programs that do not include any element of spirituality.

What to Expect at Meetings

people talking at an NA meeting

Because all Narcotics Anonymous groups act autonomously, types of members at meetings may vary from group to group. Some meetings are closed, accepting only recovering addicts. Other meetings may be open, or welcoming of non-addicts who wish to attend in support of a loved one or to gain knowledge and understanding.

If you are seeking recovery only from alcohol addiction, you may find greater understanding in NA groups with larger numbers of recovering alcoholics; alternatively, Alcoholics Anonymous is also open to you and may provide some more specific help for your needs.

General Narcotics Anonymous Meeting Rules

Regardless of the group type, here is what you can expect at an NA meeting:

  • Every attendee should be treated with respect.
  • Personal sharing is voluntary.
  • Some meetings may include speakers who can share their own insights.
  • Only first names are used, and attendance is kept private within the meeting.
  • Meetings are free to attend; money is accepted by voluntary donation only.
  • Meeting location does not necessarily indicate affiliation; meetings may be held in public spaces or religious buildings.
The 12 Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous operates on a set of guidelines meant to enhance healthier relationships with other individuals and with society. These guidelines developed from the AA movement and are described as “12 Traditions” that NA members adhere to and respect. Understanding these traditions may help you better learn how the NA support group you choose to join works.

Find a Recovery Program

Narcotics Anonymous has positively impacted people around the world by employing the same principles and traditions universally. If you or a loved one is ready to start down the path to sobriety, find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting or organization in your area by visiting the NA Meeting search page. Meeting schedules may change, so it’s best to verify the information through the local chapter’s website or helpline.

Members of these chapters are making the same journey to sobriety that you are, and you’ll benefit from continued support throughout your 12-step recovery program.

Learn More

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Come join the discussion on Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step recovery groups at our online forum.


[1]. Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Narcotics Anonymous 2013 Membership Survey. NA World Services, Inc., 2014. Web. 25 September 2015. Available at https://www.na.org/admin/include/spaw2/uploads/pdf/PR/NA_Membership_Survey.pdf

[2]. Narcotics Anonymous. (1986).What Is the Narcotics Anonymous Program?

[3]. World Service Conference Literature Committee. The Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guide. World Service Office, 1998. Web. 29 September 2015. Available at http://coastalcarolinaarea.org/literature/books/swg.pdf

Recovery.org is not affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous, NA World Services, Inc. or any of its subsidiaries. This information is provided as a resource for those seeking third-party information.


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