SAMHSA convened a National Technical Expert Panel on Research and Evaluation of Recovery Support Services on August 1-2, 2018.


Health and social service providers, funders, policymakers, and most of all people with substance use disorders and their families need better information about the effectiveness of the recovery options. Thus, a key research goal for the future is to understand and evaluate the effectiveness, and cost effectiveness, of the emerging range of mutual aid groups and Recovery Support Services, particularly peer recovery support services and practices and recovery coaches. Another focus of research is new, culturally specific adaptations of long-existent recovery supports, such as AA and NA, as they evolve to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse membership. Such research could increase public and professional awareness of these potentially cost-effective recovery strategies and resources.

Research is also needed on how health care systems themselves can work best with RSS and the workforce that provides RSS. Professional and formal treatment services and RSS have different roots and represent different cultures historically. Creating a fluid, responsive, and more effective recovery-oriented “system” will require greater sensitivity and understanding of the strengths and benefits of each, including rigorous cross-site evaluations for professional RSS strategies. Research should determine the efficacy of peer supports including peer recovery support services, recovery housing, recovery chronic disease management, high school and collegiate recovery programs, and recovery community centers through rigorous, cross-site evaluations.

Although the professionally-led health and social service system should engage with peer-led service organizations, maintaining the informal, grassroots nature of many Recovery Support Services may be central to their appeal and quite possibly their effectiveness. Thus, a diverse group of stakeholders in the recovery field should come together to create a strategic research agenda that includes:

  • The establishment of recovery outcomes and measures;
  • The development of a credible methodology for estimating the prevalence of those in recovery;
  • Protocols on initiating, stabilizing, and sustaining long-term recovery; and
  • Measuring the value of ROSC.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS, November 2016.