Recovery from substance use is more common than you think

Nearly one in ten Americans report being in recovery from a problem with alcohol or other drugs. While in recovery, with support, people can achieve many important goals and meaningfully contribute to their communities.

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“People recover from addiction. They also go on to do good things.” – Dr. David Eddie & Dr. John Kelly, substance use researchers

More people are in recovery than you may think. In fact, nearly one in ten Americans are in recovery from an alcohol or other drug problem, according to the National Recovery Study.

In another survey, published in the National Library of Medicine, recovery was defined by respondents who reported that they “used to have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but no longer do.” While in recovery, around 80% of people reported achieving at least one important goal, while 37% achieved four or more goals, including. Of the respondents in the survey:

  • 26% reported purchasing a home.
  • 34% reported supporting their family financially.
  • 34% reported helping others with problems.
  • 37% reported buying a new car.
  • 42% reported getting a new job or promotion.

Setting reachable goals such as these, and recognizing achievements along the way, is an important part of the recovery process that can help keep people on track. Recovery efforts may take multiple attempts before achieving long-term success and providing supportive environments is important to combat addiction.

The National Recovery Study found that over half of respondents reported using some form of support in their recovery journey, including professional treatment, medication-assisted treatment, local community centers, or mutual-help groups. One way to promote supportive environments is to address the stigma around drug use.

Research has found that people who use drugs face more stigma than people diagnosed with other mental illnesses. Interviews conducted with patients indicate that these negative attitudes may be even worse for people who inject drugs. This stigma has been shown to have a harmful effect on treatment outcomes, quality of care from healthcare providers, policy development, and society as a whole.

Despite this stigma, many people are still able to achieve recovery from problematic drug use and go on to provide many meaningful contributions to their communities. Sharing statistics and stories related to recovery is one way to combat the stigma associated with people who use drugs and improve outcomes for treatment, policy, and community efforts aimed towards helping people achieve recovery goals.

The Stories of Hope video series produced by the Michigan Substance Use Prevention, Education, and Recovery (MiSUPER) team includes testimonials from Michigan residents sharing their pathways to recovery. Each person interviewed shared their journey with one common theme that recovery from an addiction is a lifelong process, and many different routes or approaches work. While recovery may look different for everyone, having support from friends and family can lay an encouraging foundation for long-term recovery.

If you encounter a friend, family member or neighbor needing help, remember that substance use disorder is treatable, help and treatment is available, and recovery is possible for individuals living with a substance use disorder. Additional resources about substance misuse prevention efforts can be found on Michigan State University Extension’s MiSUPER website. 

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