What Percentage Of Addicts Recover?

Addiction is presumably a disease that is running rampant in America and other countries.  From alcohol to prescription pain pills to heroin, addiction is causing individuals and families a great deal of undue stress and misery.

One question that you hear quite often in recovery circles is, “What percentage of addicts recover?”  With the many relapses that occur in the recovery scene, the question is valid and necessary.  Just what percentage of addicts recover? And, what does recovery really mean?  Recovered for years, for decades, for life?

Facts about Addiction

Before we get into proposed recovery statistics, a little bit of addiction knowledge will help you to better understand what an addict goes through on the bumpy road to recovery.

Here are some interesting facts about addiction:

  1. Many substance use disorder experts state that addiction is a disease of the brain.  Though not everyone agrees, most will say that addiction is not a choice.  People don’t just wake up and decide they want to be addicts.  It’s a progressive condition that can affect the life of anyone, regardless of age, sex, income bracket, education level, ethnic background, and more.
  2. Addiction has been stigmatized and shamed for many years, but the public is now beginning to view it differently.  With more awareness and education going forth, society is slowly changing the way it thinks about the addiction epidemic.
  3. Jail is not the best place for most people.  Working with the model that addiction is a disease of the brain, the best place to treat addiction is with substance use disorder treatment and counseling.
  4. Some recover without getting help from others.  Others get treatment for their addiction and go on to live good lives.

How Likely Is It Someone in Recovery Will Stay Clean?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as “A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” This means that relapses may occur down the road for some addicts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they cannot recover and live a happy and productive life.  Think of the disease diabetes.  When one is diagnosed with the disease, they may not ever be completely healed of it, but they can be treated, take their medication regularly, and live a good life.

Looking At Old Recovery Data

The research completed years back indicates that about 30 percent of people in drug or alcohol treatment would still be sober or clean a year later.

In looking at a study of 1162 individuals who remained sober at least eight years, it was determined that it was challenging to really determine who would stay sober.  For example, only about 33 percent of people who were sober less than a year would remain sober. However, the research indicated that for those who could acquire five years of sobriety, their chance of relapse was less than 15 percent.

What Percentage Of Opiate Addicts Recover?

The opiate epidemic is alarming many people in the US, as the number of people addicted to pain pills and heroin is astounding. What are the recovery statistics looking like for opiate addicts?

They’re not great. Opiate addicts have more chances of relapsing than those addicted to other drugs. In a 2010 study,  109 opiate addicts were studied during and after residential treatment for drug addiction. The percentage of relapse was quite high, with 91 percent stating they had relapsed. The number of those that relapsed within one week of treatment was 59 percent. And, about 80 percent relapsed after the completion of a detox program.

Another study done in 1996 by George Vaillant, MD, received a great deal of attention.  724 men were studied over 50 years. These men had been alcoholics, but got sober through treatment, meetings, on their own, or a combination of methods.

The results showed that once the men hit two years of sobriety, relapse occurred about 40 percent of the time. Once they hit the five year mark, their chances of relapse decreased significantly, rarely occurring.  There’s actually a good bit of evidence to suggest that more addicts recover at some point in their lives than those that don’t.

For those in recovery  from opiate addiction, a study found in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2001 reports that it takes a recovering heroin user about five years of clean time before their chances of relapsing decrease significantly. Still, about 25 percent of them will relapse even after 15 years of clean time.

Recovery Relapse Rates

The numbers vary when it comes to what percentage of addicts recover, with studies usually reporting anywhere from 30 to 50 percent.  Of course, there are many factors involved when it comes to alcohol or drug addiction.  For one person, chronic relapse may occur because they never deal with the underlying issues that tend to cause them to keep drinking or drugging. For another person, it may be that they have chronic pain and they hurt so badly they keep reaching for the narcotic pain pills. However, there’s always hope.

If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, know that there are treatment options available.  You don’t have to continue to struggle. Reach out for help and get on your recovery path today, whether you’ve relapsed once or a dozen times. We’re here for you, and we’re ready to make sure your last relapse will be your last relapse.

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Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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