What is NA?
Narcotics Anonymous is an international non profit fellowship for recovering addicts. The NA movement was founded in 1953 and it is one of the oldest of its kind. Worldwide there are more than 70.000 meetings being held in over 140 countries. The number of meetings in Berlin has been continously growing over the last years. There are now more than 50 meeetings being held at different locatios and times.
Narcotics Anonymous sprang from the Alcoholics Anonymous movement in the late 1940s, with meetings first sprouting up in the Los Angeles area of California, USA, in the early Fifties. For many years the society grew very slowly, spreading from Los Angeles to other major North American cities and Australia in the early 1970s. An assembly of local delegates was first established in 1978. In 1983 Narcotics Anonymous published its self-titled basic text, and growth rates have since skyrocketed. Groups formed rapidly in Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, the Irish Republic, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. In the three years following initial publication of NA’s basic text, the number of Narcotics Anonymous groups nearly tripled.
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 over 70,000 weekly meetings in 144 countries. Narcotics Anonymous books and information pamphlets are currently available in 55 languages, with translations in process for 16 languages.*
Membership is open to any drug addict, regardless of the particular drug or combination of drugs used. There are no social, religious, economic, racial, ethnic, national, gender, or class-status membership restrictions. Narcotics Anonymous membership is completely voluntary; no membership rolls or attendance records are kept, either for NA or anyone else. Members live in the community and attend meetings on their own time. There are no dues or fees for membership; most members regularly contribute small sums to help cover expenses at group meetings, but contributions are not mandatory.
Narcotics Anonymous believes that one of the keys to its success is the therapeutic value of addicts working with other addicts. In meetings, each member shares personal experience with others seeking help, not as professionals but simply as people who have been there themselves and have found a solution. Narcotics Anonymous has no professional therapists, no residential facilities, and no clinics. NA provides no vocational, legal, financial, psychiatric, or medical services. The closest thing to an “NA counselor” is the sponsor, an experienced member who gives informal assistance to a newer member.
The primary service provided by Narcotics Anonymous is the NA group meeting. Each group runs itself on the basis of principles common to the entire organization, principles laid out in the movement’s literature. There is no hierarchical authority structure in Narcotics Anonymous. Most groups have no permanent facilities of their own, instead renting space for their weekly meetings in buildings run by public, religious, or civic organizations. Meetings may be “open,” meaning anyone may attend, or “closed,” meaning only people who are there to address their own drug problem may attend. Meetings are led by NA members; other members take part by talking in turn about their experiences in recovering from drug addiction.
The Narcotics Anonymous program uses a very simple, experience-oriented disease concept of addiction. Narcotics Anonymous does not qualify its use of the term “disease” in any medical or specialized therapeutic sense, nor does NA make any attempt to persuade others of the correctness of its view. The NA movement asserts only that its members have found acceptance of addiction as a disease to be effective in helping them come to terms with their condition.
Narcotics Anonymous encourages its members to observe complete abstinence from all drugs, including alcohol, even substances other than the individual’s drug of choice, though NA’s only stated membership requirement is “a desire to stop using” drugs. It has been the NA members’ experience that complete and continuous abstinence provides the best foundation for recovery and personal growth. However, Narcotics Anonymous takes no absolute stand as a society on the use of caffeine, nicotine, or sugar. Similarly, the use of prescribed medication for the treatment of specific medical or psychiatric conditions is neither encouraged nor prohibited by NA. While recognizing numerous questions in these areas, Narcotics Anonymous feels that they are matters of personal decision and encourages its members to consult their own experience, the experience of other members, and qualified health professionals in making up their minds about these subjects.
Tradition of Self-Support
Narcotics Anonymous is entirely self-supporting and accepts no financial contributions from nonmembers. In a similar vein, it is generally understood that groups and service committees are run by members, for members.
Tradition of Non-Endorsement
In order to maintain its focus, Narcotics Anonymous has established a tradition of nonendorsement and does not take positions as an organization on anything outside its own specific sphere of activity. Narcotics Anonymous does not express opinions, either pro or con, on civil, social, medical, legal, or religious issues, nor does it take any stands on secondary addiction-related issues such as criminality, law enforcement, drug legalization or penalties, prostitution, HIV infection, or free-needle programs. The NA movement does not even oppose the use of drugs, stating only that if an addict desires to stop using, Narcotics Anonymous stands ready to help. NA will neither endorse nor oppose any other organization’s philosophy or methodology. Narcotics Anonymous believes its sole competence is in providing a platform upon which drug addicts can share their recovery with one another. This is certainly not to say that Narcotics Anonymous believes there aren’t any other “good” or “worthy” organizations. However, to remain free of the distraction of controversy, NA focuses all its energy on its particular area of competence, leaving others to fulfill their own goals.
Cooperating With Narcotics Anonymous
Although, as previously stated, certain traditions do guide NA’s relations with other organizations, Narcotics Anonymous welcomes the cooperation of those in government, the clergy, the helping professions, and private voluntary organizations. In turn, NA is happy to cooperate with others interested in Narcotics Anonymous by providing information, literature, and contact information about recovery through the NA Fellowship. NA’s nonaddict friends have been instrumental in starting Narcotics Anonymous in many countries and helping NA grow.
The above Text is a modified summary of a paper that has been prepared under the auspices of NA’s World Service Board of Trustees External Affairs Committee. It was first presented 1990 at the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions in Berlin.
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