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  • How Effective Are NA Recovery Programs?

    Narcotics Anonymous is promoted as a twelve-step program for people who struggle with substance abuse. Many people need a mutual help group to help overcome drug addiction. 

    Studies show that regularly attending NA meetings is linked to less drug abuse, relapse, and mental health problems. However, a large percentage of people stopped going to meetings after less than a year. NA can be an effective support program, but only for people who stick around.

    NA focuses on social support as the sole method of getting help. It is not an official medical program, which may be a reason why it does not work for everyone.

    Reasons NA Can Work

    Many people end up in NA after they have already gone through a treatment program. Data on NA attendance and continued drug use is limited, but it does suggest a link between regular NA attendance and decreased drug use, especially compared to people who did not attend.

    By sharing their experiences during group meetings, NA members can work on lifestyle changes and solutions they may not see on their own.

    NA meetings can encourage consistency in people. Going to meetings every week can encourage one to keep up their recovery process. They may also want the approval of their fellow NA members.

    Reasons NA May Not Work

    Studies on NA members’ retention (how long they stick with the program) is limited, but some studies show that about 40% of people stop attending NA meetings after a year. A supportive social network may not be enough for some people to stay drug-free. 

    Some people have been unable to attend follow-up meetings because NA expected complete abstinence from them. 

    People who have a substance use disorder may also suffer from withdrawal and other health problems. NA meetings may not be a substitute for medical treatment.

    Some NA groups may even look down on medications that can treat opioid abuse, such as methadone. Like other 12-step groups, NA prefers a spiritual approach to addiction recovery. A focus on higher powers and spiritual awakenings may be off-putting to some demographics.

    NA’s Mission

    Since its founding in 1953, NA’s approach to support has been similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Its 12-step program borrows heavily from the one created by AA, and its goal for all members is complete abstinence from drug use.

    Data from Narcotics Anonymous World Services reported that Narcotics Anonymous meetings were being held in over 140 countries in 2020. Over 70,000 NA groups were spread out across these countries. 

    NA also offers books, magazines, and pamphlets for people who may want to learn more.

    While NA’s approach to recovery support may not be effective for everyone, its accessibility can be helpful for people who feel like they do not have other options.

    Professional Substance Abuse Treatment

    NA can be part of a wider drug addiction treatment plan. A 2018 study reported that 45% of new members got a referral to NA through a counseling or substance abuse treatment facility. 

    Many medical professionals see the benefit in support groups, especially in combination with professional treatment.

    NA may not be able to treat all the effects that come with drug use. NA meetings do not offer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication-assisted treatment, two common methods for treating substance abuse during inpatient or outpatient medical treatment.

    A treatment program that aids your physical and mental health is likely suggested for people struggling with long-term drug abuse. If this applies to you, a family member, or a loved one, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on May 25, 2022
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