Research shows that a large majority of people with addiction can survive and live full lives, especially if they receive proper treatment. Substance use disorders are chronic medical conditions for some people that require comprehensive, ongoing care. However, they can vary in severity from mild to severe grief and functional impairments. In parallel, many people are in remission from SUD, most of whom have milder symptoms and can improve without any formal treatment.
Studies on solving substance use problems have tended to focus on one end of the severity spectrum or the other, although population studies covering all levels of severity can help broadly inform the knowledge and policies of treatment support services and recovery. In a recent study, researchers used a national survey to estimate the number of adults in the United States who have had a substance use problem in their lifetime and the percentage of adults who have resolved their substance use problem. The study found that nearly 1 in 10 adults in the U. S.
had solved a significant alcohol or other drug problem, and half of those identified as “recovering”. However, little is known about those who have solved a problem compared to those who currently have a substance use problem. More data on the differences between people with substance use problems who solve or have not yet resolved their problem can provide key information about treatment and recovery support services policies in the U. S.
The analysis also used a new set of similar questions in which study participants were asked about lifelong recognition and recovery from a mental health problem. In addition to these new questions on substance use and mental health, the NSDUH collects a wide range of data on sociodemographics, lifetime and past year substance use profiles, and substance use treatment histories. Overall, 11.1% of the sample reported having a substance use problem, which translates to approximately 27.5 million adults in the United States. Of those who reported a substance use problem in their lifetime, 74.8 per cent reported that they were recovering or recovering from their substance use problem, which translates to approximately 20.5 million adults in the United States.
Among adults with a lifelong mental health problem, but who are not recovering from this problem, 31.9% reported having a substance use problem. Among adults recovering from a lifelong mental health problem, 29.7% reported having a substance use problem. This compares to only 7.0% who ever had a substance use problem among those who reported never having a mental health problem in their lifetime. Certain sociodemographic characteristics and the status of mental health problems increased or decreased the chances of recovering from a substance use problem. Certain substance use profiles and history of substance use treatment were associated with the status of recovery as well.
Regardless of recovery status, those who report a lifelong substance use problem have a high prevalence of tobacco use and nicotine dependence. The findings of this study, along with other nationally representative studies, make it clear that there are tens of millions of people in the United States who have solved a significant alcohol or other drug problem - going against the cultural narrative that suggests these issues are chronic and recurrent conditions. An interesting finding from this study was that those who reported recovering from a substance use problem were twice as likely to have received treatment for SUD in the past year and throughout their lives compared to those who were not in recovery - although only 40% of those who had recovered from a substance use problem had ever received SUD treatment. These data suggest that treatment can help someone resolve an alcohol or drug problem, but most people will recover without using formal treatment - either through other avenues of recovery (e.g., mutual aid organizations) or without using any formal service (i.e., self-recovery). Previous research suggests that those who can recover without external service support generally tend to have less serious addiction problems. In conclusion, this study provides evidence that there are tens of millions of people in the United States who have solved a significant alcohol or other drug problem - going against the cultural narrative that suggests these issues are chronic and recurrent conditions. It also highlights certain sociodemographic characteristics and substance use profiles that predict resolution of a substance use problem - as well as how treatment can help someone resolve an alcohol or drug issue - which can inform expansion of treatment and support services.