Information about Narcotics Anonymous
A detailed 2007 Membership Survey (released 2008) containing some interesting statistics and charts, is available as a PDF > (484 KB)
"The 2007 Membership Survey marks the first time that members were asked to assess areas of their lives that have improved with NA attendance. The two areas that received overwhelming improvement were Family Relationships where 90% of our members stated enrichment, and Social Connectedness was realized by 83% of the respondents."
Positions on related issues or institutions
Co-operating with NA
Rate of growth
Narcotics Anonymous is an
international, community-based association of recovering drug addicts
with more than 43 900 weekly meetings in over 127 countries worldwide.
The first Narcotics Anonymous meetings in South
Africa that we are aware of, appeared in 1983.
Since then meetings closed down and started up again,
growing slowly until the late nineties, when NA started
expanding rapidly in SA.
We are currently aware of about 169 weekly meetings
in the Republic of South Africa (NA South African Region).
We are in the process of translating NA literature into
Afrikaans, isiZulu, Sesotho, Setswana and isiXhosa.
Narcotics Anonymous sprang from the Alcoholics
Anonymous Programme of the late 1940s, with meetings first
emerging in the Los Angeles area of California, USA, in the early
Fifties. The NA programme started as a small US movement that has
grown into one of the world's oldest and largest 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. In 1983, Narcotics Anonymous published its self-titled Basic Text book, which contributed
to tremendous growth. Within a few years, groups had formed in Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, the Irish Republic, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Today, Narcotics Anonymous is well established throughout much of the Americas, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Newly formed groups and NA communities are now scattered throughout the Indian subcontinent, Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Narcotics Anonymous books and information pamphlets are currently
available in 34 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 non-profit 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.
There is no social, religious, economic, racial, ethnic, national,
gender, or class-status membership restrictions. There are no dues
or fees for membership; while most members regularly contribute
small sums to help cover the expenses of meetings,
such contributions are not mandatory.
Narcotics Anonymous provides a recovery process and support network inextricably 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 programme. Principles
incorporated within the steps include:
- admitting there is a problem;
- seeking help;
- engaging in a thorough self-examination;
- confidential self-disclosure;
- making amends for harm done; and
- helping other drug addicts who want to recover.
Central to the Narcotics Anonymous programme is its
emphasis on practising spiritual principles. Narcotics
Anonymous itself is non-religious, and each member is encouraged
to cultivate an individual understanding – religious or not
– of this “spiritual awakening.”
Narcotics Anonymous is not affiliated with other
organizations, including other twelve step programmes, treatment
centres, or correctional facilities. As an organization, NA does
not employ professional counsellors or therapists nor does it provide
residential facilities or clinics. Additionally, the fellowship
does not provide 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, members are encouraged to comply with complete abstinence from all drugs including alcohol. 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.
The primary service provided by Narcotics Anonymous
is the NA group meeting.
Each group runs itself based on principles common to the entire
organization, which is spelt out in NA’s literature.
Most groups rent space for their weekly meetings in buildings run
by public, religious, or civic organizations. Individual members
lead the NA meetings while other members take part by sharing in
turn about their experiences in recovering
from drug addiction. Group members also share the activities associated
with running a meeting.
In a country where Narcotics Anonymous is a relatively new phenomenon,
the NA group is the only level of organization. In places where
a number of Narcotics Anonymous groups have had the chance to develop
and stabilize, groups will have elected delegates to form a local
service committee. These local committees usually offer a number
of services. Included among them are:
- distribution of NA literature;
- telephone information
- presentations for treatment staff, civic organizations, government
agencies, and schools;
- presentations to acquaint treatment or correctional facility residents with
the NA programme; and
- meeting directories for individual information and use in scheduling visits by client
In some countries, especially the larger countries
or those where Narcotics Anonymous is well established, a number
of local/area committees have come together to create regional committees. These regional committees handle services within
their larger geographical boundaries while the local/area committees
handle local services.
An international delegate assembly known as the World Service Conference
provides guidance on issues affecting the entire organization. Primary
among the priorities of NA’s world services are activities
that support young national movements and the translation of Narcotics
Anonymous literature. For additional information, contact the World
Service Office headquarters in Los Angeles, California. The
mailing address, telephone number, fax number, and website address
appear at the end of this pamphlet.
Positions on related issues
In order 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 opinions –
either pro or con – on civil, social, medical, legal, or religious
issues. Additionally, it does not take stands on addiction-related
issues such as criminality, law enforcement, drug legalization or
penalties, prostitution, HIV/HCV infection, or syringe programmes.
Narcotics Anonymous is entirely self-supporting and does not accept financial contributions from non-members. Based
on the same principle, groups and service committees are run by
NA members, for members.
Narcotics Anonymous neither endorses nor opposes any other organization’s
philosophy or methodology. Its primary competence is in providing
a platform upon which drug addicts can share their recovery and experiences with one another. This
is not to say that Narcotics Anonymous believes there are not any
other “good” or “worthy” organizations.
To remain free of the distraction of controversy, NA focuses all
of its energy on its particular area of purpose, leaving other organizations
to fulfil their own goals.
Co-operating with Narcotics
Although certain traditions guide its relations with
other organizations, Narcotics Anonymous welcomes the co-operation of those in government, the clergy, the helping professions, and
private voluntary organizations. NA’s non-addict friends have
been instrumental in getting Narcotics Anonymous started in many
countries and helping NA grow.
NA strives to co-operate with others interested in Narcotics Anonymous
by providing contact information, literature, and information about
recovery through the NA Fellowship. Additionally, NA members are
often available to make panel presentations in treatment centres and correctional facilities, sharing the NA programme with
addicts otherwise unable to attend community-based meetings.
To offer some general informal observations about
the nature of the membership and the effectiveness of the programme, the following observations are believed to be
The socio-economic strata represented by the NA membership vary
from country to country. Members of one particular social or economic class start most national NA movements, but as their outreach activities become more effective, the membership becomes more broadly
representative of all socio-economic backgrounds.
All ethnic and religious backgrounds are represented among NA members.
Once a national movement reaches a certain level of maturity, its
membership generally reflects the diversity or
homogeneity of the background culture.
Membership in Narcotics Anonymous is voluntary; no attendance records are kept either for NA’s own purposes or for others.
Because of this, it is sometimes difficult to provide interested
parties with comprehensive information about NA membership. There
are, however, some objective measures that can be shared based on
data obtained from members attending one of our world conventions;
the diversity of our membership, especially ethnic background, seems
to be representative of the geographic location of the survey. The
following demographic information was revealed in a survey returned
by almost half of the 13 000 attendees at the 2003 NA World
Convention held in San Diego, California:
- Gender: 55% male, 45% female.
- Age: 3% 20 years old and under,
12% 21–30 years old, 31% 31–40 years old, 40% 41–50
years old, 13% over age 51, and 1% did not answer.
- Ethnicity: 70% Caucasian, 11%
African-American, 11% Hispanic, and 8% other.
- Employment status: 72% employed
full-time, 9% employed part-time, 7% unemployed, 3% retired, 3%
homemakers, 5% students, and 1% did not answer.
- Continuous abstinence/recovery: ranged from less than one year up to 40 years, with a mean average
of 7.4 years.
Rate of growth
Because no attendance records are kept, it is impossible
to estimate what percentages of those who come to Narcotics Anonymous
remain active in NA over time. The only sure indicator
of the programme’s success is the rapid growth in the number of registered Narcotics Anonymous meetings in recent
decades and the rapid spread of Narcotics Anonymous outside North
- In 1978, there were fewer than 200 registered
groups in three countries.
- In 1983, more than a dozen countries had 2 966
- In 1993, 60 countries had over 13 000
groups holding over 19 000 meetings.
- In 2002, 108 countries had 20 000 groups
holding over 30 000 meetings.
- In 2005, 116 countries had over 21 500 groups holding over 33 500 weekly meetings.
- In 2007, there are over 25 065 groups holding over 43 900 weekly meetings in 127 countries.
NA World Services, Inc.
PO Box 9999
Van Nuys, CA 91409 USA
NA South African Region
If you represent an institution that specialises
in addiction recovery, e.g. a rehabilitation centre, or your institution
has a high incidence of addiction, e.g. correctional facilities,
you may contact you nearest Narcotics Anonymous Hospitals
& Institutions (H&I) committee on 083 900 69 62, or at:
For individual groups' or other areas' contact details,
please go to the applicable area's meeting
Any other enquiries may be sent to your nearest
Narcotics Anonymous Public Information (PI) committee on 083 900 69 62, or at:
More useful links
- Our international newsletter for professionals
(including research on NA), NA
- If you need meeting directories, follow this link >
- If you need NA publications, follow this
- If you would like to hear or read testimonials from individual NA members, follow this
- If you would like to read press reports
on NA South Africa, follow this