Narcotics Anonymous sprang from the Alcoholics Anonymous Program of the late 1940s, with NA meetings first emerging in the Los Angeles area of California, USA, in the early 1950s. The NA program started as a small US organization that has grown into one of the world’s oldest and largest international organizations of its type. For many years, NA grew very slowly, spreading from Los Angeles to other major North American cities and Australia in the early 1970s. Within a few years, groups had formed in Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, and Great Britain. In 1983, Narcotics Anonymous published its self-titled Basic Text book, which contributed to NA’s tremendous growth; by year’s end, NA had grown to have a presence in more than a dozen countries and had 2,966 meetings worldwide.
Today, Narcotics Anonymous is well established throughout much of North and South America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, New Zealand, and Russia. Groups and NA communities continue to grow and evolve throughout the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and Asia. Today the organization is truly a worldwide multilingual multicultural fellowship with nearly 67,000 weekly meetings in 139 countries.
Narcotics Anonymous books and information pamphlets are currently available in 49 languages, with translations in process for 16 languages.
NA’s earliest self-titled pamphlet, known among members as “the White Booklet,” describes Narcotics Anonymous this way:
“NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We … meet regularly to help each other stay clean. … We are not interested in what or how much you used … but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help.”
Membership is open to all drug addicts, regardless of the particular drug or combination of drugs used. When adapting AA’s First Step, the word “addiction” was substituted for “alcohol,” thus removing drug-specific language and reflecting the “disease concept” of addiction. Narcotics Anonymous provides a recovery process and peer support network that are linked together. One of the keys to NA’s success is the therapeutic value of addicts working with other addicts. Members share their successes and challenges in overcoming active addiction and living drug-free, productive lives through the application of the principles contained within the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of NA. These principles are the core of the Narcotics Anonymous recovery program. Narcotics Anonymous itself is a non-religious program of recovery; each member is encouraged to cultivate an individual understanding—religious or not—of the spiritual principles and apply these principles to everyday life.
There are no social, religious, economic, racial, ethnic, national, gender, or class-status membership restrictions. There are no dues or fees for membership; most members regularly contribute in meetings to help cover the expenses incurred for the rent of facility space.
Narcotics Anonymous is not affiliated with other organizations, including other twelve step programs, treatment centers, or correctional facilities. As an organization, NA does not employ professional counselors or therapists nor does it provide residential facilities or clinics. Additionally, the fellowship does not offer vocational, legal, financial, psychiatric, or medical services. NA has only one mission: to provide an environment in which addicts can help one another stop using drugs and find a new way to live.
In Narcotics Anonymous, membership is based on a desire to stop using drugs including alcohol and has as a foundation, the principle of complete abstinence. It has been the experience of NA members that complete and continuous abstinence provides the best foundation for recovery and personal growth. NA as a whole has no opinion on outside issues, including prescribed medications. Use of psychiatric medication and other medically indicated drugs prescribed by a physician and taken under medical supervision is not seen as compromising a person’s recovery in NA.