Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

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Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an organization that helps people who are addicted to drugs. NA has adapted the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to form its own unique program for overcoming addiction.

See Organizations of Interest at the back of Volume 3 for address, telephone, and URL.

NA grew out of the experiences of two AA members. In 1944 an AA member, known as Houston, recruited a new member who was not only an alcoholic but also an abuser of morphine. The AA program helped the new recruit to overcome his alcohol addiction but not his morphine addiction. The recruit soon wound up as an involuntary patient in a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. Houston was puzzled that AA could help with alcoholism but not with addiction to other drugs. With the help of a doctor at the Lexington hospital where the recruit was being treated, Houston started a group specifically for drug addicts. Weekly meetings have taken place in that hospital ever since.

In 1948 an addict known as Dan began attending the meetings. Dan recovered from his addiction and went home to New York, hoping to form the first group for drug abusers outside the Lexington hospital. Dan looked up others whom he had known at Lexington and suggested weekly meetings. Narcotics Anonymous began with four members and slowly grew in size. The group decided to encourage addicts to seek treatment in institutions rather than going through withdrawal at home. AA established a policy of "cooperation, but not affiliation" between AA and NA. According to this policy, AA freely offered the Twelve Steps and other strategies to NA for adaptation.

NA soon attracted many people who abused a wide variety of drugs—heroin, barbiturates, amphetamines, and marijuana. As a result, NA decided its focus must be on addiction itself rather than on any one drug. They changed the wording of AA's step one from "We admitted we were powerless over drugs" to "We admitted we were powerless over our Addiction." In other words, not every member had a problem with the same drug, but they all shared a belief that they suffered from a disease of addiction. In contrast, Cocaine Anonymous or Marijuana Anonymous are groups that focus on specific drugs.

See Organizations of Interest at the back of Volume 3 for address, telephone, and URL.

NA members who have quit using drugs pass on their experiences and hopes to new members. In this way they help people still suffering from addiction to become drug-free.

see also Addiction: Concepts and Definitions; Treatment Types: An Overview.


Narcotics Anonymous (NA) advises asking these types of questions to see if a person has an addiction. The actual number of yes answers is not as important as whether drugs are causing problems or negatively affecting someone's life.

Do you ever use alone?

Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?

Has your job or school performance ever suffered from the effects of your drug use?

Have you ever thought you could not fit in or have a good time without drugs?