Does Narcotics Anonymous Really Work?


Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a 12-step program for people with drug addictions to find peer support. For many, NA is their first step into addiction recovery. However, these peer groups don’t count on the guidance and instructions of a licensed therapist. Because of this, some people believe Narcotics Anonymous doesn’t work to treat severe substance use disorders. Read on to learn more about NA and how it plays a significant role in the addiction recovery journey. 

What Is Narcotics Anonymous?

Narcotics Anonymous started in 1953 as an organization to help people recovering from drug addiction. It follows a similar 12-step program to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and even shares many of the same principles and practices. NA focuses on creating a community where people with substance use can help each other on the road to recovery. 

NA uses a book called the “Basic Text.” This book serves as a guide for recovery and advice for members. Like in other 12-step programs, NA members are encouraged to work with a sponsor to help them work the 12 steps. 

How Does Narcotics Anonymous Work?

Most NA meetings are public to anyone who wants to stop using drugs. While they focus primarily on narcotics, they don’t distinguish between any type of drugs, including alcohol. Any person struggling with a substance use disorder who wants to recover is welcome. 

Meetings are either discussion or speaker meetings. In the first ones, members share their stories of addiction, their recovery, and the struggles they’ve experienced. In speaker meetings, one or more members – usually one who have been sober – are asked to share their experiences with the group. 

New attendees are never required to share, and people are encouraged to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable with. Each meeting follows a step from the 12-step program and allows for a safe space for members to share their experiences. 

Does Narcotics Anonymous Work?

Statistics show that “community-based” or free-standing programs treat 53 percent of all drug abusers seeking recovery. About 42% of people found programs like AA helpful. However, in most cases (85%), people stopped NA attendance for a month or longer. Some studies give NA meetings an 8 out of 10 in how helpful they’re for their recovery and sobriety. Almost 25% of individuals wanted to rehab on their own—still, long-term studies are limited. Furthermore, most of the effectiveness of Narcotics Anonymous and other programs is based on perception. Because of this, experts agree that NA can help support the recovery process, but there’s limited evidence to prove it always works. 

The latest findings report the median length of abstinence by AA and NA members to be greater than five years. Of those, about 55% of NA members maintained abstinence for more than five years.

The Pros

  • Provides a sense of structure and community that can benefit those in recovery.
  • It gives people the tools to help navigate sobriety. 
  • Provides the opportunity to attend meetings online and worldwide.
  • NA meetings are free and often involve no cost or processes for the addict.
  • Works as an aftercare program that can promote sobriety and recovery.

The Cons

  • Success rates for 12-step programs are varied among studies and members.
  • The treatment approach is rooted in placing the responsibility of sobriety on the addict.
  • Meetings aren’t led by a licensed therapist or counselor.
  • NA meetings often follow philosophies rooted in religious beliefs that don’t align with all members. 
  • Lacks emphasizes the physical aspects of recovery, including detox and withdrawal symptoms. 

Finding NA Meetings Near You

If you are ready to start your recovery from drugs or alcohol, NA meetings are a great way to start. There are local NA helplines and websites that list the available meetings. Nowadays, you can also find virtual meetings happening almost 24/7. 

It’s easy to find meetings that align with your specific needs. For example, sessions for women only, men only, and even meetings structured for the LGBTQ+ population. These focused meetings can be helpful as they provide you with access to a supportive environment that understands your struggles and experiences. 

Getting Help for Narcotics Addiction

It’s possible to find recovery for addiction. Narcotics Anonymous meetings alone are usually not enough to help you beat addiction. If you or someone you know is dealing with drug addiction, contact your healthcare provider. You’ll find the support you need to achieve recovery through comprehensive, evidence-based therapies alongside group support meetings. 


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