Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a popular nonprofit organization many people join to recover from alcohol addiction. The program promotes abstaining from alcohol through a spiritually inclined 12-Steps program. Going through the 12-Steps allows members to address the roots of their addiction, make amends with those they’ve hurt, and find healthy ways to improve their lives.
Similarly, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an organization that uses the 12-Steps to help people recover from addiction to narcotics. Research shows that participation in these programs can lead to longer stretches of sobriety compared to people who don’t attend.1
While Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, Narcotics Anonymous wasn’t founded for another twenty years. NA was founded in Los Angeles, California, in 1953 by a man named Jimmy Kinnon. The group was created by AA group members who saw a need for fellowship for people addicted to substances other than alcohol.
Narcotics Anonymous meetings are meant to be a refuge for people with addiction. To maintain the meetings as a safe space, rules and different types of meetings offered:2
Closed meetings are intended for individuals who identify as having an addiction or believe they may have a drug problem. In closed meetings, people can speak openly and without fear or judgment, knowing that everyone present at the meeting understands what they are going through.
Open meetings allow anyone to attend—judges, probation officers, family members, friends, and those who are simply curious about what the meeting entails are all welcome. While attendance is open to all, verbal participation is limited to NA members only.
Those who are unable to attend in-person meetings can attend Narcotics Anonymous online meetings. Online NA meetings can be over the phone and through video chat. More information about when virtual meetings take place can be found online.
The 12-Steps of Narcotics Anonymous are geared toward the individual, as they consist of twelve principles a person must follow to recover from addiction successfully. The Twelve Traditions are a set of principles for the group to follow, allowing all members to work cohesively and support each other.
The Twelve Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous emphasize common welfare, noting that individual recovery relies on NA unity and maintaining a sense of community. The only requirement to join the group is a desire to stop using, and the primary purpose of the group is to stop the cycle of addiction. NA also maintains a commitment to anonymity, reminding members to place principles before personalities.
Research has proven the efficacy of NA and its assistance in helping individuals maintain sobriety. One study found that 59% of participants who attended 12-Steps programs (AA and NA) remained abstinent after two years, and 58% still attended meetings regularly.4
While AA and NA are similar, there are some differences between the two groups. They were founded by different people and at different times, but perhaps the biggest difference is the information used to direct each meeting—the books that create the backbone of each program.
Alcoholics Anonymous focuses only on alcohol addiction, while Narcotics Anonymous focuses on substance use disorders. NA addresses all drugs, including alcohol.
For Alcoholics Anonymous, information for AA meetings and members is found in the Big Book and Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than 100 Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism.Resources3
Members of Narcotics Anonymous use a workbook called Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guide and a basic text, Narcotics Anonymous, as the backbone of their program.
Another difference involves the typical length of meetings. An average AA meeting is around one hour, while Narcotics Anonymous meetings are closer to ninety minutes, though timeframes can vary depending on location.
Yes, people can attend both types of meetings at the same time. For example, people with an New Windowalcohol use disorder and substance use disorder can go to Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Each program has a different focus but provides similar support and information
For those interested in addressing a substance use disorder, Narcotics Anonymous meetings could be a great place to start. 12-Steps and group meetings are available in many locations around the world, including addiction treatment facilities like San Diego Detox. HomeSan Diego Detox offers 12-Steps programs and a range of other evidence-based therapeutic interventions to help end the cycle of addiction.
Although a Narcotics Anonymous support group can be a good option for treating addiction, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Different people respond to different treatment methods, so it’s important to find what works best for you.
San Diego Detox offers alternative programs to NA, including proven-effective therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and spiritually focused programs. Whether clients choose an inpatient, outpatient, or detox program, San Diego Detox offers compassionate and comforting care to make sure recovery is as smooth as possible.
Don’t hesitate to get help. Contact us at San Diego Detox to learn more about the treatment process. Our team of dedicated professionals is prepared to help you begin the journey toward long-term recovery.