Narcotics Anonymous Research Paper Examples
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a support group that grew out of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). They share a common program for the abstinence and recovery from substance abuse but NA was founded to help people with drug addictions specifically. The fellowship of support and the steps taken to achieve sobriety are the same. AA’s book, Alcoholics Anonymous written in 1937 by the founders of AA provides a blueprint for recovery and dozens of stories from alcoholics in recovery. NA has its own version of this type of book: it is specifically written for drug addicts.
Narcotics Anonymous is a broad group of people from a variety of backgrounds that have suffered from the addiction to any number of drugs, legal and illegal. These people meet to discuss their problems with addiction, how they have overcome their addiction and how they maintain their sobriety. They also offer support to each other and help to guide the newer members of the group.
The organization of the group is informal: there are no elected officers or requirements for membership. The individuals work collectively for the common interests of the group. Narcotics Anonymous is an international organization with groups and members from all over the globe, from every type of ethnic, racial, cultural and economic background. Addiction does not recognize these characteristics nor does NA.
History of Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous grew out of Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1930’s. Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous recognized the need for an organization similar to AA that would serve the same need among drug addicts. One of the first places organized for the rehabilitation from drug problems was founded within the Kentucky penal system. The Narcotics Farm or NARCO was a facility for voluntary treatment or imposed upon those found guilty of drug related crime. Dr. Tom M. was an opiate addict who participated in this program. He discovered and read the AA book and brought it home to North Carolina where he began and AA group. Other addicts were attending AA and using their Twelve Steps to become straight and maintain sobriety. AA even published articles and pamphlets on addiction to opiates and other kinds of drugs (White, Budnick and Pickard).
A morphine addict, Houston S. found recovery through AA and brought the message and the program back to Kentucky. He began a group there in 1947 and named the group Addicts Anonymous. The group struggled over the next year or two but reached out to AA for support and guidance. AA was very helpful to the fledgling group. Bill W. while supportive pointed out the differences between addicts and alcoholics (White, Budnick and Pickard).
Danny C., a patient in Kentucky found recovery through Addicts Anonymous and took the program with him to New York. With the help of a nurse with the Salvation Army, Danny began a group he called Narcotics Anonymous in New York (this is not the same NA that exists today). NA experienced slow and limited growth in New York and spread to nearby cities. NA was featured by the press as an answer to the drug problem. The group continued to operate for the next twenty years but was not well organized. There was no backbone to connect the groups or govern them. Instead the original NA was a loosely knit group of addicts looking for recovery (White, Budnick and Pickard).
On the west coast, a former patient from Kentucky, Betty T. also formed a group for addicts. She held meetings in her home of others from AA who also had a drug habit. Her group was called, Habit Forming Drugs. She too, corresponded with the AA General Offices and Bill Wilson. Jack P., also a member of AA requested permission from Bill W. and AA to begin a NA type group in a women’s prison, not as a representative of AA but as an independent citizen. Bill W. gave him his blessing. A year later, Jimmy K. took over the leadership of the NA group and the modern version of NA was begun (White, Budnick and Pickard).
Jimmy Kinnon and a group addicts in recovery were becoming active in Southern California in 1953. The early meeting were in people’s homes because churches and other community buildings were not too keen on renting out meeting space to a group of addicts. Members would perform surveillance around meeting to be sure the police were not spying on them. The stigma attached to the recovering drug addict was daunting. Law enforcement and uninformed or ignorant community members assumed that people in the group would be dealing drugs and getting high. There were problems within the groups as well over money and direction of the organization (White, Budnick and Pickard).
Bill Wilson gave the group permission to use the 12 Steps for Recovery used in the AA program. The founding members, all were members of AA. As a group they developed the 12 Traditions of NA, also built upon the Traditions of AA. The Traditions govern the manner in which individual groups operate and the operations of the group as a whole and helped to diminish conflict between groups and members. Their first publication was referred to as “The Little Brown Book” which outlined the 12 steps of recovery (White, Budnick and Pickard).
The first meetings of NA were held in the Los Angeles area and Southern California. NA began to spread across the United States and the first international groups were established in Australia by the early 1970’s. Within the next ten years, groups were formed in Brazil, Columbia, New Zealand, Ireland, India and Great Britain.
In 1983, NA published its book, Narcotics Anonymous. This book is the basic text for the organization. It provides the blueprint for the steps to achieve sobriety and the personal stories of members. By the end of the 1980’s NA had groups operating in over a dozen countries and was comprised of nearly 3,000 groups (White, Budnick and Pickard).
Membership and Culture
According to the Twelve Traditions of NA which governs groups, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.” Anyone who is an addict that wishes to stop using can attend a meeting and call themselves a member, even if they are still using. The importance of this Tradition is that a desire to stop will open the door to making the change to live a straight and sober life (“Basic Text” 65).
Because addiction affects people from all kinds of backgrounds and lifestyles, the demographics are representative of that. An estimate from NA provides these statistics: 57% males and 43% females; 76% white, 13% black, 5% Hispanic and 6% other. 59% of members are employed; 12% are employed part-time; 11% are unemployed; 9% are retired and the remainder are homeless. These statistics may be deceiving however, NA is a program of anonymity and individuals who participate do not have to reveal information about themselves. Wherever one attends a meeting, a cross-section of the local community will be observed (Narcotics Anonymous).
Some of the members come into NA and stop using on their own. Some may have been in a drug rehabilitation program, either as an in-patient or out-patient. The judicial system is also mandating that offenders attend meeting as well. Whatever brings a person to NA a solution is offered for recovery and maintenance.
NA is also an organization comprised of small groups with a common aim. In each geographic are there is a local or area council, regional council and national council. Each group selects a member who serves as their representative at these meetings. There are very loose and general guidelines for operation as stipulated by the Traditions. Anonymity of the membership is probably the most important tenet of the organization. If a person chooses to reveal to employers or friends that they are a member, that is their prerogative. Member should never reveal another addict’s affiliation with NA. NA and its groups are not allowed to accept support or donations from outside sources. They are not allowed to endorse programs or businesses. Politics and religion are not welcome in NA. The primary purpose of the organization is to achieve and maintain recovery from drugs. NA and AA are different organizations but share common core values and beliefs. Many people consider themselves members of both organizations since drugs abuse and alcohol abuse often occur together. AA warns alcoholics that drug use is not a possibility as does NA which suggests abstinence from alcohol (“Basic Text” 65).
The NA Plan for Recovery
The 12 Steps of NA provide the plan or blueprint for recovery. The program is considered “spiritual” and should not be confused with “religious”. “God” and “Higher Power” are mentioned in the steps for recovery. The interpretation of these concepts are completely up to the individual. There are addicts who have rediscovered God and attend church regularly, there are atheists who have achieved sobriety through working the steps. In order to navigate the steps and complete them successfully it is highly recommended that a new addict find a “sponsor”. A sponsor is a person with sobriety who can guide and help a new member in completing the steps effectively.
The steps involve the addict admitting that they,”are powerless over drugs and that their life is unmanageable” (“Basic Text” 17). After this admission the addict completes a “moral inventory” of themselves and share this with another person, generally their sponsor. They then complete a list of people they have harmed and make “amends” to them. To maintain a clean lifestyle, a recovering addict must complete a daily inventory and rectify wrongs immediately; maintain a spiritual lifestyle and help other addicts to attain and maintain recovery (“Basic Text” 17).
Meetings are suggested for anyone on the program. Groups meet to relay their personal stories and methods for staying clean. Newcomers to the program are encouraged to attend meetings as often as possible to give them a strong start to the program. Developing a network of friends in the program to call when tempted to use or just to talk is also encouraged. It is also suggested that female members associate with females and males with males, especially in the beginning of recovery. Romantic entanglements tend to raise too many problems that can interfere with recovery. Reading the Basic Text and other NA literature is also suggested. The plan as it is laid out and the stories shared by other addicts are inspiring and motivational.
Meetings can take many forms. Locations are easier than ever to locate. In the beginning, phone books had a central phone number for NA where a person could call to get information and find meetings. Today, with the advent of the internet an addict to look up a meeting on their smartphone: time, location and type of meeting. Meetings take different forms. There are discussion meetings that are very general. In some meetings, literature may be read and discussed. Some groups are specialized: just for women or for young people. Some meetings are “open” meaning anyone in the community can attend. A “closed” meeting is for addicts only. Some specialty meetings based on the drug of choice used have also sprung up. Cocaine use has bred the group Cocaine Anonymous. Meetings are meant for sharing and making suggestions between addicts in recovery. NA also hosts social gatherings and conventions. These activities celebrate living a drug free life.
Service work is encouraged for all members. Service work takes many forms. Acting as a sponsor is one way to perform service. Groups also bring meetings to prisons, jails and treatment center. Organizing and participating in these meetings is a wonderful way to introduce potential addicts to the programs. Making coffee, chairing a meeting and helping to clean-up are just as important as serving as a group’s representative. Many members claim that service work is a critical aspect of remaining drug-free.
Why NA Works
According to a study from Krentzman et al., NA has proven to be successful because twice as many people who attend NA on a regular basis maintain abstinence compared to those who do not. People from any background from the white suburbs to the minority filled inner cities, experience similar rates of recovery in the attend NA on a regular basis and consider themselves a member of a group. Activities that predicted success in abstinence included socialization with other NA members. Doing service work such as volunteering with their group and chairing meetings also predicted better outcomes. Having a sponsor and maintaining that relationship and reading the literature were all indicative of success. The researchers caution however, that these activities had better success rates for women than men. People who leave treatment and enter AA or NA report that attendance in these programs as very important. Attrition rates are high during the first year, nearly 80% of people who enter the program leave before the close of one year. Relapse is common for these people. The study also reported that those who attend meeting at least three days a week and stay in the program for a year or more have better rates of abstinence. (Kretzman et al, 2-3).
In an article published on-line by Hazelden, patients who participate in 12 step programs after leaving treatment have better success rates than those who attend treatment and go home without support. Alcohol and drug abuse are chronic conditions that last a person’s entire life. Rehabilitation and treatment does not cure addiction. Treatment provides a physical separation from drugs and/or alcohol and a foundation for recovery through education and counseling. In order to remain free from addiction, a person is embarking on a lifelong battle (Slaymaker and Anker).
Out-patient or continuing care offered by treatment centers is considered the optimal place for follow-up care but the overwhelming number of professionals I the addiction field credit NA and AA with long time sobriety in former patients. Many programs for the treatment of alcohol and drug dependence also offers or mandates participation in a twelve step program while enrolled in treatment. NA and AA do not lend their name or support to these institutions and businesses, but experts in the field recognize the importance of 12 step programs for success.
Many studies support the effectiveness of twelve step programs beyond treatment, most studies are short term (one year or less). There are many people who do not go to rehab but go directly to NA for help. Because of the anonymity of the program it is impossible for researchers to accurately measure the success of the program. Many who do beat their addictions may experience a relapse and begin using or drinking again. NA always welcomes these people back without judgment. Recovery is a difficult battle that will endure over the course of an addict’s lifetime, but with the support of NA and the people who make the organization what it is, a clean and healthy life is possible.
“Information about NA.” Narcotics Anonymous. n.d. Web 25 Mar. 2015
Krentzman, Amy, Robinson, Elizabeth, Moore, Barbara, Kelly, John, Laudet, Alexandre, White,
William, Zemore, Sarah, Kertz, Ernest, and Strobe, Stephen. “How Alcoholics Anonymous
(AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Work: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives.” Alcohol
Treatment Quarterly 29.1 (2010): 75-84. DOI: 10.1080/07347324.2011.538318.
Narcotics Anonymous World Services Incorporated. Narcotics Anonymous “Basic Text”.
Chatsworth, CA: Narcotics Anonymous World Services Incorporated, 2008.
Slaymaker, Valerie and Anker, Justin. “The Importance of Continuing Care.” Research Update.
Hazelden, Apr. 2013. Web 25 mar. 2015.
White, William, Budnick, Chris, & Pickard, Boyd. “Narcotics Anonymous: Its History and
Culture.” 2011. Web 25 Mar. 2015
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