Addiction Treatment

AA or NA: Which Is the Right 12 Step Meeting for You?

Call 800-926-9037 to speak with an alcohol or drug abuse counselor. Who Answers?

Last updated: 04/20/2020
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It may seem like a no-brainer, if you’re an alcoholic, you go to AA and if you’re addicted to a narcotic, you go to NA, but it’s not always that simple. Some communities don’t offer many, if any, regularly meeting NA groups, which others find AA in their area is filled with men over 65 who aren’t receptive to hearing about addiction, only drinking.

Here’s what you should know about both AA and NA and how to determine which 12 step meeting is right for you.

12 Steps Background

Formed in 1935 by two professional men, AA, by its very name, is designed for those with a problem with alcohol. NA, on the other hand, was founded as a program for drug addicts in 1953, but didn’t really gain any popularity until the 1960s.

During this time period, the programs, while following the same philosophies, were exclusively different. You were either an alcoholic or a drug addict, and there was no middle area.

In the beginning, AA folks tended to be the middle to upper class professionals, having too many beers after work, too many glasses of wine while the children were in school, or filling that highball glass a little too full at night in front of the fireplace.

The NA members, though, they were the junkies. Heroin addicts and pill poppers, they were rejects, criminals, and the outcasts of society. And the rooms reflected this.

12 Steps Today

Fast forward to today. The world, and the Rooms, are filled with people who struggle with both alcohol and drug addiction, and science says that addiction, regardless to what drug (remember alcohol is one of the most widely abused drugs in the world), is still addiction. When it comes to the 12 step meetings, people go to both, interchangeably. Yet that doesn’t mean what’s okay in one is okay in the other.

If you or someone you love is addicted, call our helpline toll-free at 800-926-9037 to speak with a caring treatment specialist that can help you get sober. Who Answers?

Here’s the breakdown:

In AA In NA
You’re sober You’re clean
You’re an alcoholic (even if you’re an addict) You’re an addict (even if you’re an alcoholic)
You have the Big Book You have the Basic Text
You shake hands You hug

And while clichés are just clichés, there are some truth to the stereotypes of what you’ll find at both AA and NA meetings. Here are some things you’re more likely to see in one rather than the other.

In AA In NA
Older adults Anyone from age 12 to 60
People with years and years of time People who are still using
Complete abstinence from all substances Leniency towards harm reduction
Uniformity, in meetings and members Diversity, in meetings and members
Strong, supportive community Fewer people committed to recovery

Pick One and Go with It

There’s no doubt that 12 step meetings work, they’ve been helping people get sober now for over 80 years. So if you’re ready, pick a group and go with it. Go to meetings. Get a sponsor. Work your steps. Sooner or later, you’ll see the benefits that AA and NA bring, regardless of what you’re using or which group you call home.

How Our Helpline Works

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the Addictions.com helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

We are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. Our representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither Addictions.com nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.