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CA describes itself as "a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from their addiction." The word "anonymous" in the name signifies that members are not required to give any information about themselves or sign on officially, but are only required to show "a desire to stop using cocaine and all other mind-altering substances." They share this attribute with other twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous.
CA began in Los Angeles in 1982, and operates mostly in the United States and Canada, though chapters in Europe are forming. The basic text for the program, "Hope, Faith and Courage: Stories from the Fellowship of Cocaine Anonymous," was published in 1994.