NA vs. AA. Terminology for Your First Meeting. Narcotics Anonymous and Religion. What Happens at Narcotics Anonymous Meeting

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What is Narcotics Anonymous?

Narcotics Anonymous was established in response to the success of Alcoholics Anonymous. Narcotics Anonymous is a global, community-based organization with a multi-lingual and multicultural membership. It was founded in 1953, and our membership growth was minimal during our initial twenty years as an organization.

Today, NA members hold nearly 67,000 meetings weekly in 139 countries. NA offers recovery from the effects of addiction through working a twelve-step program, including regular attendance at group meetings. The goal of NA is to create a community where people with substance abuse issues help each other on the road to recovery.

The only requirement to become a member of NA is a desire to overcome your addiction. NA groups don’t make a distinction between any type of drug, including alcohol. They also recognize that polysubstance dependence is common. Therefore, any addict who wants to recover is welcome. Moreover, membership is free and has no affiliation with any organizations outside of NA, including governments, religions, law enforcement groups, or medical and psychiatric associations.

Narcotics Anonymous
“I have found that the process of discovering who I really am begins with knowing who I really don’t want to be.”

James Patrick Kinnon, known as “Jimmy K.”, is commonly credited with founding Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in 1953 in Los Angeles, California, to help its members stop using addictive substances. No part of NA is compulsory or required. Meetings are either “open,” for members and non-members, or “closed” (for members and prospective members only). Visitors who are not addicted themselves are invited to attend open meetings.

Terminology for Your First Meeting

Anonymity is key to NA’s success. Members understand and agree that what is said in meetings and who they see there stays there. Therefore, they do not discuss these details publicly. This creates an environment of security where everyone feels comfortable opening up and sharing their experiences and feelings.

Here’s a quick glossary of terms used in NA meetings, as listed in the NA official “Intro to NA” material.

  • Addict: The term we use to refer to ourselves because we see addiction itself as the problem, rather than the use of a specific drug.
  • Basic Text: The book that contains our core ideas, titled Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Group: Members who hold one or more regularly scheduled NA meetings.
  • Higher Power: Any loving force that helps a member stay clean and seek recovery.
  • IPs: Information pamphlets about NA.
  • Newcomers: New NA members.
  • Relapse: When a lapse in recovery results in a brief or extended return to drug use.

Narcotics Anonymous Philosophy

To maintain its focus, Narcotics Anonymous has established a tradition of non-endorsement and does not take positions on anything outside its own specific sphere of activity. Narcotics Anonymous does not express either pro or con opinions on civil, social, medical, legal, or religious issues. In addition, it does not take stands on addiction-related issues such as criminality, law enforcement, drug legalization or penalties, prostitution, HIV/HCV infection, or syringe programs.

Narcotics Anonymous
“It’s not recovery that is painful; our resistance to it is what hurts.”

Narcotics Anonymous strives to be entirely self-supporting through member contributions and does not accept financial contributions from non-members. Based on the same principle, groups and service committees are administered by NA members for members.

Narcotics Anonymous neither endorses nor opposes any other organization’s philosophy or methodology. NA’s primary focus is in providing a recovery environment whereby drug addicts can share their recovery experiences. By remaining free from the distraction of controversy, NA can focus all of its energy on its particular area of purpose.

NA vs. AA

AA was designed solely to help those with a desire to stop drinking alcohol. NA was founded to support anyone with a substance abuse problem, including illegal or prescription drugs or alcohol, in their desire to live a sober life.

The NA approach mirrors the AA 12-step model in most ways, with a few exceptions. One major difference is in the wording of the first step. In AA, the first step states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol,” while the NA first step states, “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction.”

Both programs encourage members to recognize the pain they’ve caused themselves and others, to make amends to those they’ve hurt, to work to heal damaged relationships, and to help others to overcome their addiction. Peer support is an integral part of both programs, and the therapeutic value of members working with other members has been supported by multiple studies.

Narcotics Anonymous and Religion

NA meetings are not based on any religion but are rather grounded in spirituality. This refers to a higher power without defining what that is, as it can be different for everyone. Parts of the NA meeting usually include references to “God” and a prayer at the closing of the meeting. However, some people replace “God” with “higher power” or “good orderly direction.” The higher power aspect is meant to be a set of guiding morality and strength and is not based on any religion.

What Happens at Narcotics Anonymous Meeting

“If you’re new to NA or planning to go to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting for the first time, it might be nice to know a little bit about what happens in our meetings. The information here is meant to understand what we do when we come together to share recovery. Moreover, the words we use and the way we act might be unfamiliar to you at first, but hopefully, this information can help you get the most out of your first NA meeting or help you feel more comfortable as you keep coming back.

Also, showing up early, staying late, and asking lots of questions before and after meetings will help you get the most out of every meeting you attend… This is according to Narcotics Anonymous (NA)[1]. People have all sorts of reasons for attending NA meetings, but the purpose of each meeting is to give NA members a place to share recovery with other addicts. If you are not an addict, look for an open meeting, which welcomes non-addicts. If you’re an addict or think you might have a drug problem, we suggest a meeting every day for at least 90 days to get to know NA members and our program….” NA [2].

We Level Up Florida and The 12 Step Group Meetings

The urge to drink can still persist even after multiple completions of the Narcotics Anonymous 12 steps. In cases like this, it’s highly recommended to seek additional drug addiction treatment. Rehab facilities like We Level Up Florida offer in-house 12-step group meetings. This makes it easy to get additional treatment in a single location. Our dedicated team will be there every step as you overcome drug addiction, from individual counseling to alcohol detoxing. Contact us to learn more about how you can enroll in our treatment program today.

Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first.  If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.


[1][2]NA –

[3] Narcotics Anonymous » Drug Alcohol Addiction RehabWe Level Up