The 12 corruptions of Narcotics Anonymous

By rebelsmed 01/04/19

By the time the 1980’s arrived, Narcotics Anonymous was well established as a program of recovery for people who suffered with the disease of addiction.  Addicts were getting clean and staying clean by following this simple program of recovery. Even members of AA were starting NA meetings with the hope of addicts finding their own solution since AA was not working well for addicts.  In 1976 the first World Service Conference (WSC) was held with the intention of bringing together the groups to provide some cohesion to the growing worldwide Fellowship. The creation of literature was critically important to this Fellowship of recovering addicts because they wanted to share with others what was working for those who were staying clean.  The original literature that was created was formed in an open-participatory style, with anyone showing up being able to contribute at literature conferences. The literature created would be distributed by the burgeoning service structures to as many groups as possible, who would approve the literature for use as ‘Fellowship approved.’ The literature distributed was referred to as approval drafts before being ‘Fellowship approved’ by groups. World Service Conferences were being held annually to provide direction to the World Service Office and the board of Trustees.  

By the early 1990’s, Narcotics Anonymous had grown to the point that the Fellowship had started to solidify a service structure. Addicts had created a critical text known as the Basic Text and other literature was widely approved and used by groups around the world. There were many strong personalities and differing opinions on the direction of our service efforts and the relationship between groups and service structures. The ways literature was produced also changed. Early attempts to define our service structure resulted in publications like “The NA Tree – First Service Manual” (1975) and  “TEMPORARY WORKING GUIDE TO THE SERVICE STRUCTURE” (1984). The World Service Office (WSO) started to implement professional writers and special interest groups were used to create and modify literature, including later versions of the Basic Text.  There was a great deal of literature that was available from early literature conferences that were unpublished and in approval drafts. some remain popular like “The Paths of Recovery” (1988, this link is to one of the versions available online) and others like an approval draft of “Living Clean” (1983) but never submitted to groups for approval.  The tremendous growth and power struggles resulted in a fragmented Fellowship.

In 1992, at the annual World Service Conference, a motion was passed;

Motion 3: To approve the booklet, "Twelve Concepts for NA Service” (Addendum 2).1

Intent: Adoption of this motion will place the booklet, Twelve Concepts for NA Service, in the WSO inventory as World Service Conference-approved literature.

This booklet was approved by the conference, but never submitted to the groups for approval and therefore not Fellowship approved literature under the existing rules (hence the term ‘Conference-approved’). It was meant to direct the efforts of the service structures in place of literature like “The Paths of Recovery”. During the next decade, the WSO (which became the current Narcotics Anonymous World Services, or NAWS in 1998) began to control the production and use of the Narcotics Anonymous name, literature and logos by implementing the Fellowship Intellectual Property Trust (FIPT) which was never group approved. The Guide to World Services (Conference Cycle 2016–2018 Edition published for the World Service Conference of Narcotics Anonymous by Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc.) was created and included two sections;

C. WSC Approval

1. The conference shall not vote on any proposals to change existing Fellowship approved NA recovery literature unless such changes have appeared in the Conference Agenda Report.

2. All literature submitted to the conference for approval requires a two-thirds majority

vote of regional delegates, and it also takes a two-thirds majority vote to withdraw

current NA literature from the category of approved literature.

3. Literature approved under this process is marked as Fellowship-approved.


As well as;

Changes to NA’s Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, Twelve Concepts or NA’s Name, Nature, or Purpose Any WSC proposal or action to change NA’s Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, and Twelve Concepts for NA Service or NA’s name, nature, or purpose should be approved directly by the groups through a group tally process, administered according to the following guidelines:


Now NAWS can produce new literature, modifies existing literature and have the World Service Conference authorize it as ‘Fellowship Approved’ without involvement of the groups, further distancing itself.  It’s interesting to note that even NAWS and WSC recognize it would be dangerous to modify the twelve Steps and Traditions without group approval, but for some strange reason they also burdened the groups with the task of modifying the twelve Concepts that were never approved by groups in the first place. In fact, many of the changes to available literature, particularly the ones to the original Basic Text were never authorized by groups and have placed a burden on the very groups the service structures are meant to support.


Some of the literature created up to the 1990’s by the open-participatory method have been modified, professionally edited and released. The books “Living Clean”, and “It Works, How and Why” were done this way. It is an interesting study to look at the differences from the approval drafts to the finished products and see the problems created. Members, particularly those who are new are adopting the new literature and accepting it as “Fellowship Approved” while some prefer older literature, considered illegal by the NAWS corporation further widening the rift.  In North America, Narcotics Anonymous has seen little growth in the last 20 years, which should be a dire warning to those members who are firmly in control of the NAWS corporation.  Some Groups are now adopting alternate literature and alternate literature sources, such as the Anonymi Foundation. The European Fellowship Service Conference recently released approval drafts of “Rings of Service” (an alternative to the 12 concepts) and a book titled “Grey Book Reflections” both available on Facebook. As Narcotics Anonymous spreads, many international Fellowships are translating existing or creating their own literature and may not seek the approval of NAWS.  The Iranian Region has flourished in the last 25 years using literature that was translated independantly of NAWS. They produce and sell all their own literature with minimal markup because of the overwhelming financial support of the groups and this could become the model for other service structures as well.  The NAWS corporation which relies on literature profits has failed to gain the support of the groups and will continue to struggle and could eventually decline. Internationally, further away from the influence of NAWS, the Fellowship continues to grow.


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