When an addict has the desire and willingness to get sober for the first time, they probably wonder which twelve-step program is better, Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous? What is the difference? Do I have to commit to one? A lot of questions go through our heads about the programs of recovery and rightly so. You should ask and explore all the similarities and differences to find out which one or if both are right for you or a loved one.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the older of the two programs starting in 1935 by a few men who had the same goal of wanting to help alcoholics gain sobriety and pass it on to other alcoholics.
The Twelve Step Program is what AA is centered around, which is 12 steps that alcoholics live by. They are a guide to help them grow spiritually and to help them become aware of the damage they have done to others and to themselves in their addiction. Through these steps, they also get to make amends and make their wrongs right.
As the person continues to live by these 12 steps in his/her everyday life and gains life skills to live by, they start seeing the importance and the joy they bring and want to share this with the next person who is looking to better their life through recovery.
AA is also centered on group therapy or support groups, which are the meetings that are held around the world. This is where other alcoholics can get or give support through others who have been where they were and share similar experiences.
While AA was growing and gaining praise, there were people who struggled with addiction to substances besides alcohol who needed support as well but felt they were not included since the AA program was based around alcohol. This was when Narcotics Anonymous began.
There are many similarities in both AA and NA. They both use support groups as their therapy and hold meetings. And they both use The Twelve Step Program as principles and guidelines to living life.
So AA and NA share many similarities, but there are a few differences that go beyond which substance is used by the addict.
Differences Between AA & NA
The first main difference is AA’s basis of their program is to help the person who suffers from the substance of alcohol while NA’s program is there to help people who have an addiction to any substance. In relation, the twelve steps that both AA and NA base their programs off of are similar except the first step. AA states “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.” Where NA states, “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.” It may seem like only a couple of words that are different, but it means a lot more than that.
AA’s first step claims only the alcohol needs to be managed; then everything will be good to go. NA’s are saying “our addiction,” which can mean anything and everything that brings us to unmanageability. That could be drugs, food, money, our thoughts, our actions, etc. It goes a lot deeper and is more of what is whiting a person rather than an external substance.
Now we can compare till we are out of breath, but what many suggest is try both and see what works for the individual seeking recovery. There is no wrong answer. They both have the same message and goal: “to help the next alcoholic or addict achieve sobriety.”
Garden State Treatment Center is an outpatient and partial care addiction treatment facility that offers nuanced levels of care for individuals struggling with the horrors of substance abuse. Garden State Treatment Center’s 12-step addiction treatment based on the philosophy of the 12-step program as outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous. When you enroll in the program, we will work with you to draw you out of hopelessness into a new way of life.
What are the differences between Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are both organizations that offer support to individuals struggling with addiction, but they differ in their focus and some aspects of their approach. Here are the main differences between the two:
- AA primarily focuses on helping individuals with alcohol addiction.
- NA, on the other hand, is aimed at people struggling with addiction to drugs, including narcotics, prescription medications, and, in some cases, alcohol.
Founding and History:
- AA is the older of the two organizations, founded in 1935. It was the first 12-step program, and its success led to the creation of other 12-step programs, including NA.
- NA was founded later, in 1953, and adapted many of the principles and structures from AA but broadened the scope to include drug addictions beyond alcohol.
- AA uses the “Big Book,” officially titled “Alcoholics Anonymous,” as its main piece of literature. The Big Book outlines the 12 steps and shares stories of recovery.
- NA has its own main text, often referred to as the “Basic Text.” The NA Basic Text adapts the 12 steps for a broader range of addictions and includes its own collection of personal stories.
- While both AA and NA meetings can vary in format, AA meetings tend to focus primarily on issues related to alcohol.
- NA meetings are more likely to include discussions about a wider range of substances.
Inclusivity of Substance:
- In AA, the focus is usually specifically on alcohol, and sharing is generally confined to alcohol-related experiences.
- In NA, members are encouraged to speak more generally about the addiction rather than naming specific substances, making it more inclusive for people with different types of drug addiction.
- AA asks only that members have a desire to stop drinking.
- NA asks that members have a desire to stop using drugs, in general, including alcohol if it is used as a drug.
Global Reach and Size:
- AA is larger and has a more extensive global presence compared to NA.
- NA, while also international, has fewer meetings globally compared to AA.
Both AA and NA are based on the 12-step principles and have a spiritual component, where members are encouraged to surrender their addiction to a higher power. It’s important to note that what works as a recovery program varies for individuals, and some people might find one program more beneficial or better suited to their needs than the other. Also, some individuals attend both AA and NA meetings.
Does Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous use the same steps?
Yes, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) both use the 12-Step model for recovery. However, there are slight variations in the language they use in the steps.
Here are the 12 Steps as originally published by Alcoholics Anonymous:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Now, here are the 12 Steps as published by Narcotics Anonymous, with a focus on addiction in general, not just alcohol:
- We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
- We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
As you can see, the steps are very similar, with the primary difference being that AA’s steps specifically mention alcohol, while NA’s steps refer more generally to addiction. This reflects the broader focus of NA on drug addiction in general, not just alcohol.