Frequently Asked Questions about NA

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an international, community based association of recovering drug addicts with more than 63,000 weekly meetings in over 132 countries worldwide. There are currently 215 weekly meetings across Ireland.

What is NA?

Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 Step fellowship. This is a simple, spiritual, not religious, program for recovering addicts to support each other to stay clean.

Who can go to a meeting?

Anyone who wants to stop using drugs can become a member of Narcotics Anonymous. NA is open to anyone regardless of age, race, sexual identity, religion or lack of religion. Sometimes people come to NA meetings while still using drugs, detoxing from drugs, or on drug replacement therapy. Regardless of what you may be taking when you first come to NA, you are welcome.

How does it work?

Addicts helping each other recover are the foundation of NA. Members meet regularly to talk about their experiences in recovery. More experienced members (known as sponsors) work individually with newer members. The core of the NA program is the Twelve Steps. These “steps” are a set of spiritual guidelines outlining a practical approach to recovery.

What happens at an NA meeting?

An NA meeting is where two or more addicts gather for the purpose of recovery from the disease of addiction. Members offer each other support by sharing experiences about how they manage life situations without returning to using drugs. Some meetings have speakers who share their experience with getting and staying clean, while others have structured formats that focus on NA literature (our Basic Text, informational pamphlets, or our Just for Today daily meditation book). All meetings focus on recovery and supporting each other in recovery. For more information see our An Introduction to NA Meetings pamphlet.

What should I expect when I go to my first NA meeting?

Typically a leader or chairperson will conduct the meeting. There is usually time for participation in which members share about their experience, strength, and hope with staying clean. You do not have to speak during the meeting if you don’t want to. We encourage you to get there a little early so that you can speak with some of the members and pick up some literature before the meeting starts.

If a person is under the influence of drugs, can they participate in NA meetings?

In general, we cannot assess anyone’s desire to abstain from drugs, and NA has no opinion on drug replacement therapies used by professionals in the management of addiction. NA is a program of total abstinence. This provides the foundation for recovery from drug use and for further personal growth. Narcotics Anonymous has only one membership requirement: a desire to stop using drugs. Drug addicts who are participating in drug replacement therapies are welcome in NA meetings. To keep our message clear, some meetings ask that people under the influence of any mind- or mood-altering substances listen (rather than speak) during the meeting, and speak to members on an individual basis before and after the meeting. Meetings that follow this practice do so to preserve an atmosphere of recovery in the meeting.

For members who have a need to take prescribed medication for medical or mental health issues, we suggest reading the booklet In Times of Illness. This piece provides helpful, experience-based information regarding medication and illness, and outlines the idea that the decision to take medication is left to the member, physician, and sponsor. This booklet was written to help members who have achieved total abstinence from drugs and are faced with a need to take medication.

Where can I find information on meetings?

The meeting list on this website is the best place to find NA meetings in Ireland; it is updated regularly and where possible contains a link to a map of the area. The meeting list is designed to print well, however meeting details do change so we would always advise checking the site. If you cannot find what you are looking for, please call your local Phoneline.

How can I get NA literature?

Literature is available for sale through our Service Office. You can download a postal order form here or call your local Phoneline for more information.

Is NA connected to any religious organisations?

No. The NA program is based on a set of spiritual principles that are not associated with a particular religion. Although our steps call for finding and believing in a “power greater than oneself,” this is a personal decision for each and every member to make. Members choose their own “power greater than themselves.” Members are free to choose a belief that works for them personally, and there is no opposition to anyone’s choice within the fellowship. We perceive this to be one of the strengths of our program. The experience of our members has shown that the spiritual principles work for all members, from the devoutly religious to the atheist and agnostic.

Do you speak at events or conferences?

We are very happy to do so. Contact us at [email protected] and we will pass your details on to the relevant Public Information Committee, who can organise a presentation at your facility or event.

I’m not an addict, but can I attend your meetings?

We have meetings that are open to the public and are listed as such on our meeting schedule. We do ask that you respect our closed meetings, which are for addicts and for those who believe that they have a problem with drugs.

What is the difference between NA and AA?

Some AA members helped start NA. In 1953, AA then gave permission to adapt their 12 traditions and 12 steps. The primary difference between the two programs is that AA’s focus is recovery from alcoholism, whereas NA’s focus is on recovery from addiction. In NA, we believe that alcohol is a drug.

I believe in NA and want to help NA. What can I do?

Your positive remarks to others about our Fellowship are a beginning. We do not accept outside contributions nor do we have non-addict volunteers in our Fellowship. The best thing you can do to help us is to advise a person with a drug problem that NA is here, that there is no cost to join us, and that we might be able to help that person.

How are you funded?

We are fully self-supporting. Each meeting asks for contributions to help pay for rent, refreshments & literature. While we practice the principle of self-support, it is not a requirement to contribute. Anything left over is passed to other areas of the fellowship to help carry our message of recovery to the addict who still suffers. We do not accept outside contributions.

Are most of your members heroin addicts?

As indicated in our Membership Survey, our members use a variety of drugs, including alcohol. Interestingly, 80% of those surveyed list alcohol as one of the drugs used on a regular basis. This survey also provides information about employment status, occupation, gender, and age. Our basic tenet about addiction is that it is a disease and not related to a specific substance. For more information see the World Survey on membership.

How can I get someone to stop using drugs?

From our personal experiences, you can’t stop a drug addict from using. The addict will only stop when there is a desire to stop using and seek help. If you know somebody who is using, you may wish to give them some of our literature and a meeting schedule so that they can come to one of our meetings to see if NA can help them stop. NA does not do so-called drug “interventions” nor do we give advice to family members, friends or employers in how to deal with a using addict.

What’s the difference between NA and treatment centres? NA and psychotherapy?

Narcotics Anonymous is a non-profit organization, which charges no fees or dues to its members. We do not have medical staff or professional counsellors to treat or advise our members. We do not present ourselves as professionals to the addicts that come to us seeking recovery. We offer ourselves as addicts, the same as them, who have learned how to stop using drugs, lost the desire to use drugs and have found a new way to live. For the psychotherapy question: Our meetings are not conducted like a psychotherapy session. We do not allow cross talking nor do we have professionally trained facilitators.

How do you deal with mentally ill addicts?

We do not exclude addicts from our meetings because of health issues, whether physical or mental. Our Third Tradition states the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using drugs

Does NA operate any treatment centres or detoxification units?

No, NA does not run any treatment centre or detoxification services to addicts.

Are your meetings confidential? Is that legal?

We try our best to be confidential and respectful of anonymity. However we cannot fully guarantee confidentiality or full anonymity in the community nor do we have a legal right to confidentiality such as a doctor or lawyer has.

There is more information about NA worldwide available here.