Narcotics Anonymous Comes of Age


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Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is too often relegated to the status of stepchild of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). NA's unique history, culture, and distinctiveness are routinely obscured within references to "AA and other Twelve Step programs." For the past several years, Chris Budnick, Boyd Pickard and I have been conducting research on the history of NA, and we recently authored an article commemorating the 60th anniversary of NA's founding. In this article we identified and discussed 12 things we believed every addiction professional should know about NA.

  1. No addiction recovery mutual aid organization in American history was birthed in a more culturally hostile environment than that faced by NA in the 1950s.
  2. NA is the only major recovery mutual aid organization that defines the addict's essential problem as powerlessness over a process of addiction rather than powerlessness over a particular substance.
  3. NA, more than any recovery mutual aid organization before or since, unequivocally defines addiction as a "disease."
  4. NA conceptualizes recovery as a process of complete abstinence from all drugs made possible only by a larger spiritually driven transformation of personal character, identity, and interpersonal relationships--changes achieved through the daily application of NA's Twelve Steps.
  5. NA has grown from one meeting in 1953 to more than 61,000 NA meetings in 129 countries in 2013.
  6. NA has developed a distinctive and extensive body of recovery support literature for its members.
  7. NA membership is the most culturally diverse of any major addiction recovery mutual aid organization.
  8. The mean duration of years in long-term, continuous recovery within NA has progressively increased.
  9. NA openly acknowledges modeling itself on AA in its beginnings, but today's NA has its own distinct program of recovery and its own recovery culture.
  10. NA has forged a service structure for effective self-governance and worldwide service.
  11. Both NA membership surveys and independent scientific studies affirm the role of NA participation in long-term addiction recovery and enhanced quality of life in recovery.
  12. NA participation is being increasingly integrated with professionally directed addiction treatment.

I encourage every addiction professional to read the full article and offer their own tribute to NA's coming of age.

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