- Recovery from substance use disorders has had several definitions. Although specific elements of these definitions differ, all agree that recovery goes beyond the remission of symptoms to include a positive change in the whole person. In this regard, “abstinence,” though often necessary, is not always sufficient to define recovery.
- Remission from substance use disorders—the reduction of key symptoms below the diagnostic threshold—is more common than most people realize. “Supported” scientific evidence indicates that approximately 50 percent of adults who once met diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder—or about 25 million people—are currently in stable remission (1 year or longer). Even so, remission from a substance use disorder can take several years and multiple episodes of treatment, RSS, and/or mutual aid.
- There are many paths to recovery. People will choose their pathway based on their cultural values, their socioeconomic status, their psychological and behavioral needs, and the nature of their substance use disorder.
- Mutual aid groups and newly emerging recovery support programs and organizations are a key part of the system of continuing care for substance use disorders in the United States. A range of recovery support services have sprung up all over the United States, including in schools, health care systems, housing, and community settings.
- The state of the science is varied in the recovery field.
- Well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of 12-step mutual aid groups focused on alcohol and 12-step facilitation interventions.
- Evidence for the effectiveness of other recovery supports (educational settings, drug-focused mutual aid groups, and recovery housing) is promising.
- Many other recovery supports have been studied little or not at all.
*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summarizes strength of evidence as: “Well-supported”: when evidence is derived from multiple controlled trials or large-scale population studies; “Supported”: when evidence is derived from rigorous but fewer or smaller trials; and “Promising”: when evidence is derived from a practical or clinical sense and is widely practiced.