Twelve-Step Program: Narcotics Anonymous

clients in a twelve step program

The journey from health to addiction differs for each addict. For some, addiction occurs inadvertently such as individuals who become dependent on the medications prescribed legitimately by their doctors. Others slowly lose themselves due to their recreational abuse and experimentation with dangerous and highly addictive substances. There are also those who become addicts due to their prior exposure to substance abuse or because addiction runs in their families. However, no matter how it occurs the disease of addiction is a destructive, encompassing journey that has brought millions of good people to their knees.

Fortunately, there are a number of recovery options available for those who have become dependent on alcohol, drugs, or even a number of behaviors. While addiction treatment programs offered by alcohol and drug rehabs are often the preferred method of treatment, twelve-step programs remain a popular alternative that have allowed millions and millions of addicts to achieve lasting sobriety. For several decades after its inception, Alcoholics Anonymous was the only twelve-step program available. It catered to those addicted to alcohol and some felt the group discouraged members from discussing other types of addiction; however, those who were addicted to heroin or painkillers felt that Alcoholics Anonymous had something to offer them. Today, Narcotics Anonymous is the second-largest twelve-step organization in the world. As such, the following will serve as an overview of Narcotics Anonymous’ creation, how it differs from parent group Alcoholics Anonymous, and why it’s effective at helping individuals addicted to opioids to overcome chemical dependency.

The Creation of a Twelve-Step Program for Narcotics Addiction

still shot of a twelve step program

While Bill Wilson is credited with creating Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, Jimmy Kinnon is similarly considered to be responsible for adapting Wilson’s methods for the treatment of narcotics addiction. Also like Wilson, Kinnon struggled with chemical dependency too; Kinnon became addicted to alcohol and prescription pills, unable to overcome those addictions until he began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in 1950. However, Kinnon felt that Alcoholics Anonymous was not as inclusive as it could be; rather than inviting anyone who suffered from addiction no matter what the substance was, Alcoholics Anonymous groups frequently discouraged individuals from discussing addictions other than alcohol. Moreover, Kinnon felt that Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps seemed to address the symptom of substance abuse as the sole behavior individuals were striving to change; instead, Kinnon felt that a more effective method would emphasize the fact that there were cognitive processes—patterns of thinking, emotions, beliefs, and attitudes—at the root of each addict’s substance abuse. After all, most addicts begin their substance abuse as a means of alleviating some other form of pain or discomfort, such as physical pain, emotional pain due to past experiences, social phobias, and so on.

In 1953, Kinnon and several other members of a local Alcoholics Anonymous group began holding their own separate meetings. The organization of Alcoholics Anonymous granted Kinnon usage of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as long as the group operated under its own name, which resulted in Kinnon calling the group Narcotics Anonymous. Much of the twelve-step methodology remained the same, but Kinnon made some small yet important changes. For instance, in the first of the Twelve Steps Kinnon changes “powerless over alcohol” to “powerless over addiction,” making Narcotics Anonymous readily accessible to anyone who suffered from chemical dependency. In fact, the literature virtually never mentions “alcohol” or “drugs,” but rather makes repeated references to “addiction” in an effort to make the program more inclusive to anyone suffering from dependency. Other aspects of the twelve-step method that Kinnon tailored to his new group included making the sole requirement for membership having the desire to stop using.

Narcotics Anonymous: The Method & Mission

While Alcoholics Anonymous acknowledges that addiction is a disease, Narcotics Anonymous was even more specific, characterizing addiction as a progressive and incurable disease that affects every aspect of one’s life, including the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. However, the literature states that addiction can be arrested through the use and employment of the Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous. The view of Narcotics Anonymous is that substance abuse is merely one of many symptoms of addiction, which also includes such symptoms as obsession, denial, self-centeredness, compulsion, and impulsiveness. However, by working the steps members are able to overcome the obsessive and compulsive substance abuse behavior, allowing them to aid newcomers to the group in the form of sponsorship, which is a concept that carries over from Alcoholics Anonymous.

Find Health & Happiness in Recovery with Recovery Hub

There’s not a singular, “correct” way to achieve recovery. While Narcotics Anonymous remains an effective and popular support group that has given many addicts another chance at life, addiction treatment programs offer numerous evidence-based treatments that address the underlying causes and contributors of substance abuse. If you or someone you love would benefit from learning more about twelve-step recovery or other forms of treatment, call Recovery Hub today at 1-888-220-4352. We have a team of intake coordinators and recovery specialists available to match individuals suffering from addiction to the best treatments for their specific recovery needs. Don’t wait—call now.

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