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23.5 Million Americans in Recovery

By March 7, 2012

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Perhaps for the first time, we may have an accurate estimate of how many people in the United States are currently in recovery for an alcohol or drug problem. A national survey conducted by the Partnership at DrugFree.org and New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) indicates that 10 percent of all adults over age 18 in the U.S. consider themselves to be in recovery.

That means an estimated 23.5 million Americans have found sustained recovery from involvement with drugs and alcohol that they once considered problematic.

The survey of 2,526 adults, including 1,272 males and 1,254 females, was conducted in 2011. The researchers did not ask participants about details of their recovery, such as if they were a member of a mutual support group or if they had sought professional treatment services.

The survey asked one simply question: "Did you once have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but no longer do?" The answer was yes for 10% of all participants.

More Males Than Females in Recovery

Other findings gleaned from the survey include:

  • 12% of males are in recovery, compared with 7% of females.
  • More adults age 35 to 44 are in recovery, compared with other age groups.
  • The Midwest has the highest prevalence of adults in recovery (14%) compared to the South with the lowest (7%).
  • In the West 11% report being in recovery and 9% in the Northeast.
  • There was no significant difference between adults who are parents and adults without children who say they are in recovery.
Sending a Message to Addicts

Government officials and treatment providers alike hailed the new estimates of so many people finding recovery to demonstrate that alcoholism and addiction is treatable and recovery is possible for many millions.

"This new learning provides a big reason - more than 23 million reasons - for all those who are struggling with their own, or a loved one's substance use disorder, to have hope and know that they are not alone," said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org in a news release. "These findings serve as a reminder that addiction is a treatable disease and recovery can be a reality. We are just scratching the surface here and more research is needed in this area."

News Source: The Parnership at Drugfree.org. "Survey: Ten Percent of American Adults Report Being in Recovery from Substance Abuse or Addiction." March 6, 2012

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March 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm
(1) Beth Burgess says:

I am not trying to put a downer on recovery, but I think it is very important to consider whether on not this represents recovery from actual, serious addiction or ‘recovery’ from problematic use.

I do not think it does addicts any favours to over-represent recovery, because us addicts can not afford to be complacent about the difficult journey we face.

Recovery is a wonderful thing and hope is a wonderful thing, too. but I would rather we knew realistically the challenges rather than blindly be swept away by ‘happy’ numbers. I would have been much more comfortable with this research if the survey had differentiated between people who were actually addicted and people who had gone through a period of problematic use. Why? Because the treatment for these separate issues is completely different.

Treatments for heavy or problematic drinker may include controlled drinking, whereas for true addicts, it would most certainly not. This is a vital point and i feel the study has blurred the picture of recovery by not differentiating between the two.

Beth Burgess
Addictions Specialist
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