Success of Narcotics Anonymous

Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with drug dependence and have decided to seek assistance, you may consider going to a 12 step program such as Narcotics Anonymous or N.A. Before you make the decision to enter N.A., you should investigate the success rate of Narcotics Anonymous.

Perhaps you have heard that Narcotics Anonymous is a popular program that holds a worldwide membership of more than 2 million people. That is pretty impressive! If that many people are enrolled in the program, then it must be an outstanding program and have a high success rate. However, the truth is that while Narcotics Anonymous claims that they have more than 2 million members; their dropout rate is 95 percent.

Narcotics Anonymous, as a 12 step program, supports the idea that drug use is a genetic disease and that there is no cure for the disease. N.A. offers that the only viable treatment available is belief in a higher power, meetings for the rest of your life and abstinence. With regard to abstinence, N.A. teaches that everyone has a relapse and that you will not be successful in being able to abstain from drug use without resorting to a high power. They further imply that the person is powerless against their drug use. Narcotic Anonymous, as well as other 12 step programs use labels such as addict and addiction to keep their members trapped in their substance use.

At the same time, Narcotics Anonymous presents a victim mentality to their members through their teaching that since they are diseased, their drug use is not their fault. Many outsiders argue that this ideology offers a pass and prevents the drug user from accepting responsibility in their actions. During N.A. meetings, it is not unusual to find angry and bitter members venting their hostilities about their drug use and raving about how their disease is ruining their life. Further, Narcotics Anonymous does not seem to offer any tangible advice on how to overcome drug use, simply to surrender to their higher power and to drug substance itself truly believing that the substance has control over their life. For these many reasons people begin to question the true success of Narcotics Anonymous.

In reality, the drug user is not diseased. There is no evidence to support or prove that there is a drug addict or addiction gene. The truth is that people use drugs because they want to and they do not have to live the rest of their life trapped in drug use, but can stop using anytime they desire. The truth is that drug use is a learned behavior: meaning that the individual learned to use drugs and associate it with feelings, emotions or as a coping mechanism. The individual likes the way they feel when they use drugs and so it becomes a habit of behavior to use drugs, so that they feel good. It is possible to associate other activities, habits and behaviors with a “feel good” feeling.

Many people after spending some considerable time in N.A. with no results begin seeking an alternative. St. Jude Retreats is often that program that gives people hope rather than endless meetings and recovery. Our program teaches guests to develop habits and behaviors that are positive and to make decisions and choices that are productive. Our guests discover that they can have a life that is permanently free from drug use.

  • Tony Petrozza

    This all makes sense!

  • Elizabeth Tidwell

    This makes no sense at all!!! Wonder what degree the author has or how many NA meeting he/she has attended. Addiction is recognized as a brain disease. The tangible advice that NA gives on how to overcome substance abuse is to WORK THE STEPS among many other things. And the program will work for anyone who is willing to put the work into it. NA also does not say that addicts should not take responsibility for their actions. NA says the addict is responsible for their recovery and it is during their recovery and through working steps that the addicts take full responsibility for the things they’ve done and make efforts to make those things right. Maybe the author needs to further research the topic of their blog because to me this sounds like nothing more then a commercial for St. Jude. It’s a shame they have to bash what works for others to promote themselves.

  • Michelle Brown Dunbar

    Elizabeth, thank you for your comment. I did not write this blog but know that it is completely accurate. I, personally attended thousands of AA and NA meetings over an 8 year period of time. While I had a drug problem at one time I stopped going to NA meetings completely because of the easy availability of drugs at every single meeting. While I am just an experiment of 1, I personally saw no one stay in NA long term. And those that stuck around were in and out; struggling with frequent relapse. And yes, I saw people die and then get blamed by the fellowship for “not working the steps.” I did stay in AA because I saw a bit more success there, but even that success was limited and usually temporary. When I started my research into the most effective means at overcoming substance use, I started from the 12 step model because it was all that I knew, but the research was compelling. The 12 step model was actually less successful than a brief intervention. That is not my opinion but has been shown repeatedly in independent research. If NA has helped you to be successful, that is great, but please know you are in the minority. If you are really concerned about helping others I challenge you to run your own experiment as I did. Attend daily meetings for one year and keep track of everyone who enters each meeting. Then see how many are still attending meetings at the end of one year and how many of those stayed clean. There is so much information out there now regarding more effective, evidence based methods for helping people that have much less risk. In addition to its lack of efficacy due to the powerlessness/disease model, AA and NA has become a hunting ground for predators, opportunists and criminals. Perhaps it is time to really rethink how people are helped.

  • James

    do we meet people to hang out with??

  • James Rockon

    NA and AA do not track their membership and both are anonymous, hence, it’s impossible to know what the success/ drop out rate is. According to the National Institute of Health, addiction (to opiates and other drugs) is recognized as a chronic, relapsing brain disease with a wide range of serious medical consequences. Findings from brain imaging studies in humans, along with basic cellular and behavioral research in animals, have identified profound disruptions in the specific brain circuits and cells that underlie addiction.

    With that said, I know people who have successfully quit using both narcotics and alcohol, using a 12 step program, and others who have stopped on their own without any 12 step or higher power. I believe that whatever works (be it a 12 step program, will power or whatever) is a GOOD thing, and this bickering over what works better and who has a better program, is not helping anyone. It would be much easier to simply offer your service to those who want it, and calm your competitive attitude about other methods of treatment that have proven successful for many people.

  • Will

    You have no idea what you are talking about. Ask any scientist or reputable doctor, psychologist, therapist, or counselor and they will all tell you that addiction is a brain disease. No one said anything about genetics. Have you ever been a drug addict or alcoholic for years and then tried to simply “stop when you desire?” NA and AA meetings are about fellowship. People don’t go there for scientific answers or a tried-and-true step by step process for recovery. There is no step-by-step process, it’s different for everyone, and having a fellowship of like minded people are working towards the same goal can be very therapeutic and helpful in recovery. It helped me. You are doing great damage with this hair-brained post that offers up no evidence for your wild-eyed claims.

    • Rachel Pagán

      Your post made me laugh… You’re trying to support a program of recovery based around the 12 steps, but say there is no step-by-step process for recovery! I think you maybe missed all of the readings at the beginning of EVERY 12 step meeting. And yes the brain is changed with drug and alcohol use, but it’s the characteristics of a healthy brain and neuroplasticity that are responsible for the change, not the drugs themselves and not a sick or diseased brain. Healthy brains learn and respond to desire and rewards which lead to compulsion… But the behavior can be unlearned through repetition as well. Read a book.

  • ojo

    you’re spot on Mark! These people that ask, how many meetings have you been too? Well people, he and his staff have been to countless. And BRI does actual research, and wasn’t made up by one person about 60 something years ago!

  • Rebecca Basso

    This is the dumbest shit I have ever read…it’s like it was written by the guy from Malibu passages…lol…give me a break…relapse doesn’t have to be a part of your story…it hasn’t been a part of mine YET…you know why, because I go to meetings, have a sponsor, work steps, believe in service and a God of my understanding. So many people misleading addicts and looking to make a buck off of the sick and suffereing. If you are struggling with drugs, maybe you’re not sure if your an addict, maybe you are just thinking about stopping, please find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. ..I wish I would have found the rooms before I was 33 years old. The message is hope and the promise is freedom.

  • Michael Helsing

    I am not buying any of this. I am sorry some of you claim (like the author of this article did) that you have had bad experiences in NA and AA. I disagree with your statements though.
    Relapse is NOT part of everyone’s story.
    We have local members with 25+ years of abstinence.
    The DSM defines addiction as a disease.
    There is NO data to support the claim of a 95% dropout rate.
    As they say in the program.. Keep coming back.
    Honestly, my opinion is that the author of this article is bashing NA in order to plug his version of recovery (St. Jude Retreats). I have no problem with other pathways of recovery. AS it states in NA literature ‘We are not saying that NA is the only way to stay clean. We are just saying that is the way that worked for us.’ The spiritual (not religious) principles we learn in this program teach us to treat others with love and respect. My question is… why do you have to put someone (or an orginzation) down in order to make yourself look good?

  • Nek Christopoulos

    Agreed. I have been to my fair share of NA meetings. The claim is that it has worked for so many people over the years. And yet, i hardly saw anyone in there over the age of 60. Barely anyone over the age of 70. And i asked myself. Where are all the clean people who entered NA in the 70s , 80’s, etc? If they are clean, and living the steps and attending meetings, then where are they? It was at that moment that it struck me that a lot of things were said and preached in NA, but they were not necessarily true. Secondly, spending the rest of my life going to meetings, and talking drugs.. that’s not freedom from drugs, far from it.