In 2012, I authored a monograph reviewing the results of 415 studies published over more than a century that reported rates of addiction recovery. Major findings of that review included 5.3% to 15.3% (25-40 million adults) of the adult population who reported once having but no longer having an alcohol or other drug (AOD) problem—either through sustained abstinence or reductions in AOD use. Substance use disorder (SUD) remission rates in studies published since 2000 were 53.9% in community samples and 50.3% in clinical samples (follow-up studies of addiction treatment). The wide range of estimates of prevalence and remission rates can be attributed to different problem definitions, different definitions of remission, and duration of follow-up (also see Mellor et al., 2019), but these studies collectively confirm a substantial population of people who reported having resolved an AOD problem in their lifetime.
Two recently published studies led by McCabe (2018) and Kelly (2017, 2018) offer additional data on recovery prevalence in the United States. Major findings from the McCabe study, based on data from the 2012-2013 Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, include the following:
Major findings from the Kelly study, based on a U.S. adult population survey, include the following:
The McCabe and Kelly studies add further evidence that tens of millions of American have experienced an AOD problem and have found sustainable and varied solutions to that problem. Two key tenets of the recovery advocacy movement are: 1) Recovery is a reality in the lives of individuals, families, and communities, and 2) There are multiple pathways of recovery and ALL are cause for celebration. The latest scientific studies simply add an empirical “Amen” to those declarations.
Kelly, J. F., Abry, A. W., Milligan, C. M., Bergman, B. G., & Hoeppner, B. B. (2018). On being “in recovery”: A national study of prevalence and correlates of adopting or not adopting a recovery identity among individuals resolving drug and alcohol problems. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 32(6), 595-604. doi: 10.1037/adb0000386.
Kelly, J. F., Bergman, B., Hoeppner, B., Vilsaint, C., & White, W. L. (2017). Prevalence, pathways, and predictors of recovery from drug and alcohol problems in the United States Population: Implications for practice, research, and policy. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 181, 162-169.
Kelly, J. F., Bergman, B. G., Hoeppner, B., Eddie, D., Vilsaint, C., & Hoffman, L. (2018). Recovery from alcohol and other drug problems in the U.S. population: Prevalence, pathways, and predictors. Journal of Recovery Science, 1(2), c1. https://doi.org/10.31886/jors.12.2018.11
McCabe, S. E., West, B T., Strobbe, S., & Boyd, C. J. (2018). Persistence/recurrence of and remission from DSM-5 substance use disorders in the United States: Substance-specific and substance-aggregated correlates. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 93, 38-48.
Mellor, R., Lancaster, K. & Ritter., A. (2019). Systematic review of untreated remission from alcohol problems: Estimation lies in the eye of the beholder. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, March, DOI: 10.1016/j.jsat.2019.04.004
White, W. L. (2012). Recovery/remission from substance use disorders: An analysis of reported outcomes in 415 scientific studies, 1868-2011. Chicago: Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center; Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental disabilites; Northeast Addiction Technology Transfer Center.