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9% of Americans Lived to Tell the Tale: How People Are Overcoming Addiction in the US

A recent study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that 9.1 percent of Americans report they have suffered with a drug or alcohol use problem at some point in their lives but they have now overcome the issue. About 46 percent of that number self-identified as being in recovery.

More than 39,000 people took part in the study and discussed their life experiences with substance use and abuse. Among them, the primary substance of abuse was alcohol followed by marijuana and cocaine. About 29 percent had resolved their substance use disorder (SUD) more than 15 years ago and more than 35 percent reported they had overcome an SUD between five and 15 years ago.

The report also found that part of the process of gaining a strong footing in recovery after a substance use problem was making use of the range of treatment options available to them. They discovered that about 15 percent of those who had overcome an SUD in the past five years had used medication assistance and that more than 50 percent had taken part in professional treatment programs either on an inpatient or outpatient basis and/or a 12-Step program like Alcoholics Anonymous.

9.1 percent of Americans report they have suffered with a drug or alcohol use problem at some point in their lives but they have now overcome the issue.

Long Lasting Recovery through Treatment

Those with severe substance use disorders, a criminal history (especially through engagement with drug courts), and/or a diagnosed mental health disorder were more likely to have taken part in a professional treatment program. Why? Because when you are living with a co-occurring mental health disorder as well as addiction, and you are unable to get sober on your own, treatment is the most effective path forward to recovery.

With so many different treatment programs to choose from, it is not always easy for families in crisis to identify the best possible choice for their loved one. To complicate things further, everyone who enters drug rehab will need a different combination of treatments or therapies in order to truly experience comprehensive and effective care. In order to ensure access to the right combination of therapeutic interventions, it is recommended that families choose a program that offers:

  • A full mental health evaluation at the start of treatment to identify all co-occurring mental health issues that may impact the person’s ability to get and stay sober
  • A unique treatment plan based on the results of that evaluation as well as the person’s medical and drug history, and their goals for their experience in recovery
  • The opportunity to take part in a range of different traditional, alternative, and holistic therapy options
  • The opportunity to connect with peers in recovery and begin the process of building a support system that will sustain them for the long-term
  • Family education, therapy, and support that promote a positive understanding of the nature of addiction as well as how best to help a loved one to make healthy choices in recovery
  • Aftercare and support through alumni groups and other follow-up measures that help to provide continued support in recovery after treatment ends

Long-Term Aftercare Support = Long-Term Sobriety

Though there is no cure for addiction at this time, this report and an entire body of research uphold the notion that effective treatment is only supportive of recovery for the long-term when it is followed by intensive aftercare services. Like treatment, this means something different for everyone, and the details should be chosen based on what the individual needs in this moment to feel most stable in recovery. Depending on the specific situation, this can mean:

  • Taking part in a 12-Step program in order to make connections with other people who are understanding of a past in addiction and similarly working to stay sober
  • Continuing to work with a therapist who specializes in substance abuse treatment
  • Continuing to see a prescribing physician if maintenance medications or mental health medications are in use
  • Engaging in holistic treatments and therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, and others that are proven to be effective in the management of cravings, stress, and relapse
  • Making lifestyle choices that promote overall health and wellness, and increase the coping skills on hand to handle stress and avoid relapse

Are you one of the people who have overcome an addiction and are now living a sober life in recovery? Does someone you love need help to join that group?

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