Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a twelve-step program of recovery from drug addiction, modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. It describes itself as a nonprofit “fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem”, and it is the second-largest 12-step organization in existence. The program is group-oriented, and is based on the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions, adapted from A.A.
The only requirement for membership is “a desire to stop using,” and members “meet regularly to help each other stay clean,” where “clean” is defined as complete abstinence from all mood and mind altering substances (including alcohol). Membership in N.A. is free, and there are no dues or fees. The foundation of the Narcotics Anonymous program is the twelve steps and twelve traditions.
Narcotics Anonymous “has no opinion on outside issues,” including those of politics, science, or medicine, and does not endorse any outside organization or institution. The fellowship does not promote itself, but rather attracts new members through public information and outreach. N.A. groups and areas supply outside organizations with factual information regarding the N.A. program, and individual members may carry the N.A. message to hospitals and institutions, such as treatment centers and jails.
The nature of addiction
N.A. describes addiction as a progressive disease with no known cure, which affects every area of an addict’s life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. N.A. suggests that the disease of addiction can be arrested, and recovery is possible through the N.A. twelve-step program. The steps never mention drugs or drug use, rather they refer only to addiction, to indicate that addicts have a disease of which drug use is one symptom. Other symptoms include obsession, compulsion, denial, and self-centered fear.
Addicts often first enter N.A. after reaching a “bottom” in their life, a point at which life feels completely unmanageable, characterized by “unemployability, dereliction and destruction” and centered around the getting and using and finding ways and means to get more drugs. Every N.A. member reaches a different bottom, which can be wherever the addict chooses to stop using. In practice, it is drug use and the extreme consequences associated with its abuse that bring most addicts to their bottom.