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Survey: Ten Percent of American Adults Report Being in Recovery from Substance Abuse or Addiction

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Data Show More Than 23 Million Adults Living in U.S. Once Had  Drug or Alcohol Problems, But No Longer Do

New York, NY, March, 6 2012 – Survey data released today by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) show that 10 percent of all American adults, ages 18 and older, consider themselves to be in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse problems. These nationally representative findings indicate that there are 23.5 million American adults who are overcoming an involvement with drugs or alcohol that they once considered to be problematic.

According to the new survey funded by OASAS, 10 percent of adults surveyed said yes to the question, “Did you once have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but no longer do?” – one simple way of describing recovery from drug and alcohol abuse or addiction.

“The OASAS study is an important contribution to the public’s understanding of recovery, as it represents the actual voices of millions of Americans whose lives have improved because they are living free of alcohol and other drug problems,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “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. 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, but we are proud to collaborate with New York OASAS in this meaningful process.”

“This research marks a vitally important step for those who are struggling with addiction by offering clear evidence to support what many know experientially – that millions of Americans have found a path to recovery,” said New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez. “It is my hope that this new evidence will strengthen and inspire individuals and those that provide treatment and recovery services to help the broader community understand that treatment does work and recovery is possible.” 

Other self-reported findings from the new data conclude that: 

  • More males say they are in recovery than females (12 percent vs. 7 percent).
  • More adults ages 35-44 report being in recovery, compared to younger adults (18-34) and adults who are 55 years of age or older.
  • The Midwest has a higher prevalence of adults (14 percent) who say they are in recovery compared to adults in the South (7 percent). In other regions of the country, the percentage of adults[1] who say they are in recovery is 11 percent for the West and 9 percent for the Northeast.

The study also found no significant difference between parents and adults without children who say they are in recovery. This demonstrates that parents are as likely as non-parents to be in recovery. 

“This new research also supports findings from a groundbreaking survey done for Faces and Voices of Recovery by Peter Hart Associates that provided the initial evidence that there was a large population in recovery in the United States,” said Tom Hedrick, Senior Program Officer and one of the founding members of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Those 2004 findings concluded that ‘38 percent of adults have a family member or close friend (or both) who is in recovery from addiction to alcohol or other drugs.’”

 Insights from Experts in the Field of Substance Abuse and Addiction:

“I’ve learned that there is ‘a science of addiction, but not a science of recovery.’ With the survey conducted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and OASAS, we now have a very strong beginning to developing that science. Through past initiatives, we established some sensible definitions of what ‘being in recovery’ actually means – and this additional work provides fundamental information on how many people are in recovery. These are not only the building blocks for the ‘recovery science’ that have been called for, but they are the foundation for public understanding, acceptance and ultimately, the celebration of recovery.”  A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, Former Deputy Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

“Every American is acutely aware of the negative impact of drug and alcohol addiction; it’s impossible to ignore. Yet we have somehow missed a very positive story about addiction that is right in front of our nose: Tens of millions of our fellow citizens come out the other side to live substance-free, healthy and productive lives. This study is a wake-up call to the reality of recovery in America, as well as a source of hope for the millions of American families who are currently struggling with drug and alcohol problems.”  — Keith Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine

“As these findings demonstrate, recovery is everywhere. All across our country people are living healthy and productive lives in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, benefiting themselves, their families and communities. Recovery is our best kept secret. It’s time to invest in understanding the solution to alcohol and other drug problems, advocate for the right resources to recover and demonstrate the power and proof of long-term recovery, offering hope to the over 23 million Americans who have yet to find recovery.”  — Pat Taylor, Executive Director, Faces and Voices of Recovery 

“This research is vitally important – it shows that, until now, even addiction experts have been unaware of how many people across the country are in sustained recovery. We often hear about the latest celebrity’s bad behavior, but it’s rare for the public to see people overcome their addictions, achieve their goals, and go on to become great parents, employees, citizens, etc. The public won’t know these success stories unless we tell them, and that’s what this research does. It breaks new ground and provides tremendous inspiration for those who are currently struggling with drug and/or alcohol problems and their families.” – Deni Carise, PhD, Chief Clinical Officer, Phoenix House Foundation

Resources for Those in Recovery and for Families Facing Addiction

the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is reaching families directly through its transformative campaign, You Are Not Alone, which calls on all those affected by addiction – individuals, families, communities and organizations – to take action and help our loved ones in need. You Are Not Alone comes to life in a collection of visual stories, each one a message dedicated to the families of the 11 million teens or young adults who are struggling with substance abuse.

This public storytelling – stories of hope and healing – puts a face to the disease of addiction and brings together the millions directly impacted with those who currently know someone who needs help.

For those families who are currently struggling with addiction or have a loved one who is in recovery, please visit the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’s online resource, Recover at drugfree.org.

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Survey Methodology 

The nationally representative survey from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and OASAS was conducted among 2,526 adults, ages 18 and older, living in the United States. Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) conducted the survey in 2011, with a sample consisting of 1,272 male and 1,254 female respondents and with a margin of error +/- 2 percentage points.

ORC CARAVAN® random-digit-dial omnibus survey is conducted among adults 18 years of age and older living in private households in the continental United States. It is a multi-client nationally projectable study and the sample includes both unlisted and listed landline telephone numbers and is fully replicated and stratified by region. All national telephone surveys are weighted to U.S. Census data for age, gender, geographic region, education and race in order to improve the projectability and reliability of the random telephone sample. The survey is enhanced with a sample of cell phone interviews to reflect the growing importance of adults who do not have landlines or rarely use them. This captures the best representation of the adult population, especially among younger adults 18-34.

Survey Question: “Did you used to have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but no longer do?”

About the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Ninety percent of addictions start in the teenage years. The Partnership at Drugfree.org is dedicated to helping families solve the problem of teen substance abuse. Bringing together renowned scientists, parent experts and communications professionals, this public health nonprofit translates research on teen behavior, parenting, addiction and treatment into useful and effective resources at drugfree.org. Its You Are Not Alone campaign is dedicated to supporting families of the 11 million teens and young adults who need addiction treatment, while the organization’s community education programs reach families at the grassroots level. the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’s mission to help parents prevent, intervene in and find treatment for drug and alcohol use by their children depends on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and the public sector. We are thankful to SAG/AFTRA and the advertising and media industries for their ongoing generosity.

 About OASAS

OASAS oversees one of the nation’s largest addiction services systems dedicated to Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, with more than 1,550 programs serving over 110,000 New Yorkers on any given day. To get help for someone in need, call the toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day a week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY. For more information, please visit www.oasas.state.ny.us. Follow OASAS: www.twitter.com/nysoasas / facebook profile: NYS OASAS / www.youtube.com/nysoasas / www.flickr.com/photos/nysoasas


[1] not statistically significant

11 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Harvey Justmann
    Harvey Justmann / April 13, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Please send link to study. Thank you.

  2. Avatar of Edward-Yemil Rosario
    Edward-Yemil Rosario / March 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Where is the DIRECT link to the study?

  3. Avatar of Kenneth Anderson
    Kenneth Anderson / November 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    We already know from NESARC that the vast majority of people with addictions overcome them on their own without treatment and without AA or NA. These numbers do not prove that addiction is a “treatable disease” or that treatment is effective. There is little if any evidnece that standard forms of addiction treatment or 12 step programs beat the rate of spontaneous remission.

    • David Macmaster / July 7, 2014 at 10:47 am

      If we abandon all addiction treatment and find a way to have AA, NA and the other recovery support disappear and wait for those with alcohol and drug problems to spontaneously quit at no expense to the community, who will pay for the remaining $6.8 billion a year our excessive drinking causes in Wisconsin where I live?

      It is unlikely I would have quit on my own volition without the help I received from treatment and recovery support. Hurray for those that quit on their own. Hurray for those that get into recovery with a helping hand. As far as the research goes we have lots to learn and hopefully useful questions will be posed and wise direction and solutions will be discovered. I don’t care much who gets the credit.

  4. Avatar of Mack Strouss
    Mack Strouss / September 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I don’t think the ten percent is accurate because of the way the question was asked. (“Did you used to have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but no longer do?”)

    A lot of people in recovery, even those with many years clean, would say that it’s still a problem. For this reason I would submit that the number is much higher than 10%.

  5. Avatar of Kelly
    Kelly / April 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I’m curious why you consider someone who once had a problem with alcohol or drugs as being “in recovery”? Isn’t that putting words in their mouth?

    I’ve been looking for data on people who quit addictions on their own, versus those who needed either temporary or long-term support in 12 step programs. So that is my interest here.

  6. Avatar of Meghan
    Meghan / March 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Did they all identify themselves as “being in recovery” or did they just answer a Yes/No question about if they no longer use a substance problematically? “Being in recovery” implies some sort of commitment to maintaining abstinence or working a program, etc. And how many of those people “achieved recovery” via a treatment facility vs. a 12-step group vs. totally on their own? Seems that better questions could have been asked to tease out more interesting & useful information.

  7. Lisa Frederiksen - BreakingTheCycles.com / March 6, 2012 at 10:49 am

    This is marvelous news and will serve as hope and inspiration for so many who are reluctant to get help or to hope there is another way — whether they be the person struggling with a substance misuse problem or the family member/friend who loves them. Thank you all for conducting this critically important research!

  8. Avatar of Steven Slate
    Steven Slate / April 4, 2012 at 12:16 am

    You’re right Meghan, but they don’t want the answers to those questions.

  9. Avatar of Matt
    Matt / May 9, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I absolutely agree. Many, or most, of those 23 million did not have a chronic problem. If you once had the problem of a broken leg are you “recovering” from it ten years later?

  10. Avatar of Dayat
    Dayat / August 13, 2012 at 7:01 am

    you should not start simnokg in the first place since you are under age, however, if you have already started this habit, it would be wise to stop as soon as possible other wise the simnokg WILL lead to all sorts of cancers, infections and diseases in your body.If you are only doing it on social occasions, it isn’t really any better than simnokg a packet a day, because the same chemicals are still in your systems, and it only takes a litte, for it to trigger the cancerous cell and end up in you hvaing to have many operations.signs of addiction isnt really hard to pick, you will just start to REALLY want a smoke.hope this helps and you dont die from cancer, infections or diseases xx(ps. Both my mother and grandfather died from simnokg related causes)

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