What Are the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous (NA)?

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Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a global organization dedicated to helping people addicted to substances pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle via a 12-step program.

The 12-step philosophy was first introduced by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a way of life and a path to recovery from alcoholism. It has since been adopted by many other types of addiction recovery groups, including NA and Cocaine Anonymous (CA), among others.

If you are considering undertaking the 12 steps of NA, you’re not alone. According to a 2020 study, approximately 45% of Americans who have recovered from substance addiction have used 12-step programs to do so. Like AA, NA is a free, community-based resource that anyone can access.

The 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous

The 12 steps of NA are listed and explained below.

Step 1

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.

It can be hard for people who are addicted to a substance to recognize their addiction. The first step is critical because it requires you to admit you have an addiction that needs to be treated. This can also make it easier for your friends and family members to accept and admit that you have a substance abuse problem.

Step 2

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This step involves putting your faith in a higher power that can help you heal. The higher power can be God, or any other spiritual entity or concept you believe in. While you may struggle with this step if you’re not religious, it’s intended to be an opportunity to let go of the things beyond your control and start working on the things within your control.

Step 3

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

This step is a form of surrender that is intended to help you develop a more positive attitude. For instance, if you find yourself drinking to relieve feelings of anger, pain, frustration, or depression, you can turn those feelings over to a higher power. Doing so can help reduce the compulsion to drink and help you feel more capable of dealing with life’s challenges.

Step 4

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Substance abuse can have negative repercussions on your work, family, relationships, and community. This step involves being honest with yourself about the harm done to the various aspects of your life, and taking responsibility for your actions.

Step 5

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

While the previous step requires you to recognize your wrongs, this step requires you to go one step further and confess them out loud. Admitting your faults to another person can be difficult, so the step helps you prepare by confessing to a higher power first.

Step 6

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

The focus of this step is accepting your faults and being prepared to let them go. As you confront your past, you may find yourself feeling guilty or ashamed of your actions. This step helps you build the willingness to change your behavior.

Step 7

We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

This step involves praying or employing other spiritual or mindfulness techniques. It can be both humbling and empowering to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and ask for assistance in dealing with your flaws. This step can help improve your self-awareness and spirituality.

Step 8

We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

This step requires you to make a list of all those who were harmed by your substance abuse and prepare yourself to apologize and make amends to all of them. This can be difficult, but if you’ve found yourself feeling isolated lately, steps eight and nine can help you improve your relationships and rejoin your community.

Step 9

We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

This step requires you to actually reach out to the people you’ve hurt and make amends with them. The only exception is in situations where trying to make amends will do more harm than good, for instance by opening up old wounds or causing fresh pain, in which case it is better left alone.

Step 10

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

There may be times during the recovery process when you make mistakes or relapse. This step requires you to stay vigilant on a daily basis, and admit to any faults you make as you go forward, so you can maintain your spiritual progress. 

Step 11

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

This step encourages you to find a higher purpose. If you’re religious or spiritual, you can do this soul-searching through your prayers to God or a higher power. If not, you can do it through your community or the NA group you’re part of.

Step 12

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

This step asks you to apply these principles to every aspect of your life and carry them forward to help others struggling with addiction as well. 

NA and AA groups are peer-based models designed to help people share support, advice, experiences, and hope. The idea is that as you have benefitted from someone else’s help, you should pay it forward by helping others. Without people’s contributions, these mutual support groups will cease to exist.

A Word From Verywell

12-step programs are designed to help people who are addicted to substances like alcohol and drugs. If you or a loved one have a substance abuse problem and want to get help, you should go to an AA, NA, or CA meeting near you. If you’re already undergoing treatment, talk to your healthcare provider about whether a 12-step program can be beneficial to you.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Alcoholics Anonymous. What is A.A.?

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  5. Narcotics Anonymous, Michigan. The 12 Steps.

  6. Rogers S, Pinedo M, Villatoro A, Zemore S. “I don’t feel like I have a problem because I can still go to work and function”: Problem recognition among persons with substance use disorders. Subst Use Misuse. 2019;54(13):2108-2116. doi:10.1080/10826084.2019.1630441

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By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.