AA vs NA: What You Should Know

By May 21, 2018Relapse Prevention

AA Vs. NA: What’s The Difference?

If you’re new to recovery, you might wonder what the differences are between AA and NA. Perhaps you’ve heard people talk about these support groups while attending addiction treatment or have seen them mentioned on various websites. As you begin or continue your recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, understanding what AA and NA are should serve you well. To understand AA vs. NA it is important to understand both similarities and differences between the two support groups.

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AA and NA Defined

AA is an acronym for Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a 12 Step support group that was started back in 1935 by two men who sobered up and wanted to help other struggling alcoholics do the same. The support group is based on twelve steps that when worked through, can help people stay sober and grow in various areas of their lives. The program offers a guide to help the recovering alcoholic:

  • Come to terms with a Higher Power who can help them
  • Begin digging deep to heal unhealed emotional wounds
  • Learn valuable life skills
  • Make amends to those they have hurt
  • Begin helping others who are struggling with alcoholism

AA has helped many alcoholics embrace sobriety and go on to live meaningful lives. It provides a much-needed support system for those who continue to struggle with drinking. It also serves as a great support system for those who are fresh out of alcohol rehab.

NA is an acronym for Narcotics Anonymous. This is a support group that is also based on twelve steps and was founded in 1953. Seeing how AA helped so many alcoholics get free from their addiction, people saw a need for those who struggled with drug addiction. Based on the successes of AA, NA was formed to specifically help those who were addicted to drugs other than alcohol.

NA is run very similar to AA, with the 12 Steps being a cornerstone of the program. The biggest difference is that those in NA struggle with an addiction to a drug or drugs, as opposed to just alcohol.

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AA Vs. NA: The Differences

If you attend both an AA and an NA meeting, you’ll notice that they’re run about the same. You show up, listen to some literature being read out loud, and then the meeting opens for people to share. People offer their experiences, strength, and hope during the meeting.

But there are some subtle differences that occur. For example, AA’s first step says, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol”. In NA, it reads, “We were powerless over our addiction.” Some people prefer to attend NA (even recovering alcoholics) because they would rather deal with their powerless over the “addiction”, rather than a “substance”. Some people in NA express that they are more apt to rely on themselves to overcome the “addiction” than rely on a Higher Power (as in AA) to overcome a “substance”.

A second difference is that AA members focus on a legal substance to overcome, but NA included illegal substances. The reality is that NA will draw a wide variety of people, and some people in AA don’t really feel AA is equipped to handle those addicts that have been addicted to drugs like heroin, crack, meth, and other “hardcore” drugs.

Can a Drug Addict Attend AA?

The consensus among AA members is that NA is more appropriate for those struggling with a drug addiction. It’s not that they won’t be welcomed at an AA meeting; it’s just that NA members would have more to offer in terms of support. Can recovering alcoholics attend an NA meeting? Sure, as alcohol is a drug and many recovering addicts also had a dependence on alcohol too. It really may be up to each person to decide on whether to attend AA or NA.

If you’re not sure whether to attend AA or NA, talk about your situation with someone who is knowledgeable in both support groups. You can also talk to the person who facilitates meetings to get their input. The important thing is that you regularly attend either AA or NA to continue your recovery path should you decide a 12 Step group is right for you.