When many people think of addiction recovery support groups, the first program that typically comes to mind is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). While AA is indeed considered a hallmark staple in addiction recovery aftercare, it is not the only program that has proven beneficial.
Inspired by the success of Alcoholics Anonymous, many other peer support programs have evolved to serve specific sectors of addiction recovery communities. A primary example includes Narcotics Anonymous. Like AA, Narcotics Anonymous started small. Today, NA members hold more than 76,000 meetings in over 140 countries.
Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) play a vital role in many mental and behavioral health treatments, including addiction recovery. Narcotics Anonymous meetings are guided by a specific leader, usually a trained counselor, social worker, or peer leader.
In addiction recovery, support groups are intended to complement the work previously done while in rehabilitation; however, they are not intended to replace detoxification and therapy.
When Narcotics Anonymous first started, many of the teachings and materials provided were based on those developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. Membership to Narcotics Anonymous is, and always has been, open to all people who struggle with addiction, regardless of their substance(s) of choice.
When Narcotics Anonymous first adapted the AA First Steps program to suit the recovery needs of their participants, the word “alcohol” was replaced with “addiction” to remove references to a specific substance. This helps the support group to be inclusive to all.
NA groups follow many of the same ideas and principles as AA, and one such foundational premise is that of spirituality. While meetings are not based on a specific religion, there is still a strong spiritual focus. Although there are references to "God," usually during a prayer at the end of the meeting, some replace the word "God" with "higher power" or another more comfortable term.
The shared experience that links many NA participants is that of understanding and support. Participants share similar experiences with substance use or with recovering from addiction. Support groups like NA are essential to those with few, if any, friends who share the same challenges with substance abuse or have chosen to get sober. Because addiction can be highly isolating, support groups can help recovering addicts realize they are not alone at any stage of recovery.
Both NA local meetings and online meetings use numerous basic terms during each session. If you are new to meetings like Narcotics Anonymous, it is helpful to be familiar with and understand these terms:
There are two types of NA meetings: "open" and "closed." Anyone can attend an open meeting, and they are often attended by people interested in how NA works or by those who want to support a loved one on their recovery journey. Closed NA meetings are reserved only for recovering addicts.
One of the biggest challenges before attending an initial NA meeting is apprehension about the unknown. It is natural to feel concerned, perhaps even intimidated, before going to a meeting. However, it is crucial to remember that all NA members are individuals in recovery who want to help others heal and achieve lasting sobriety.
Most NA meetings, regardless of the format, last between sixty and ninety minutes.During the first moments of a meeting, you can expect to see members welcoming each other and socializing.
Meetings are generally either speaker or discussion meetings. At a speaker meeting, one or more members are asked to share for most of the session. Discussion meetings involve members sharing personal stories of addiction and recovery. Members are not required to share, and those who do can share as much or as little as they wish. Sharing is done one at a time, and members are asked to share details of their own experiences rather than commenting on the experiences of others.
Much like statistics gathered on AA, details about the effectiveness of Narcotics Anonymous vary depending on the study. A survey of active and former NA members conducted recently indicates that 22% of members maintained sobriety for more than twenty years. The same study showed that 91% of NA members indicated improved family relationships as a result of regular NA attendance. Other positive areas of improvement included social connections (87%) and employment (78%).
Like its foundational program, there are many arguments on both sides for the benefits and drawbacks of Narcotics Anonymous programs. It is essential to remember that support groups like NA may not be the best treatment plan for everyone. However, years of positive outcomes and success suggest that the NA 12-Step format can help people overcome addiction and maintain sobriety.
Some of the benefits of attending Narcotics Anonymous include:
While NA may prove beneficial to many, it does have its shortcomings, including:
12-Step programs like Narcotics Anonymous are considered peer support groups. While they can be a highly valuable part of a recovery program, a trained psychotherapist does not lead them, so they are not as regulated or medically sound as attending actual group therapy. Since struggling with substance abuse has such a strong tie to mental health, counseling is a crucial element of addiction treatment for many people.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family counseling, and other types of therapy models can help individuals not only stay sober, but also address and/or diagnose other co-occurring conditions (such as mental health challenges) that often lie at the root of the addiction.
If you are interested in learning more about Narcotics Anonymous and finding a local NA meeting near you, please feel free to contact us at Genesis Recovery. Our admissions team will be more than happy to help you begin your recovery journey today.