A membership survey of Narcotics Anonymous in the UK

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Background: Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an abstinence oriented mutual-aid organization for recovery from addiction. Since 2007 NA has been recommended to people seeking help for their addiction by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Despite its well-known public profile and inclusion in NICE guidelines, little is known about the experiences of the NA membership. Academic research into NA has been very limited due to the nature of the organizations’ governance and philosophy.

Aims: To establish a cooperation with NA to conduct a survey that explores its membership profile and factors associated with recovery. Further aims were to determine pathways to NA membership and referral rates by professionals.

Method: A paper-based survey in three locations as well as online. Participation was self-selected and anonymous. The data (N= 889) were analysed to describe NA membership composition, the pathways of members into NA and their involvement in the fellowship. Where possible, demographics were compared with publicly available data.

Results: Based on the demographics found in the sample, NA appears to serve the general public well. The majority of participants have received professional treatment (83.7%) of which 66.7% have received a recommendation to attend NA by a treatment professional. Members length of abstinence correlated positively with improvement in different areas of life, especially with employment rates, which exceed the UK labour market after 3-5 years of abstinence.

Conclusion: Studies exploring Narcotics Anonymous must be mindful of the fellowships structure and beliefs. The results of the study support the claim by the fellowship that NA members can become productive, responsible members of society, which vindicates the 2007 NICE recommendation for referral and the goals of the 2010 UK Drug Strategy.

Conflicts of interest:

Self-funded – no conflict of interest.


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Mr Oliver Neubert