Ten Percent in Recovery – NOT

Here’s the headline at Partnership for a Drug-Free America:

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

Very interesting news, right?

How did they arrive at that number? With a poll that asks, “Did you once have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but no longer do?”

Choose you evidence carefully by rocket ship
Choose you evidence carefully by rocket ship

Does that measure recovery? I don’t think so.

Recovery has traditionally described achieving abstinence after a severe and persistent substance use problem characterized by loss of control over use. There has been a push to expand the definition to include people who moderate. This question would catch those people. I’m not too concerned about that.

What does concern me is that there are lots (and lots) of people who have a time-limited episode of substance use problems and moderate or stop once they have reason to. Say, a college student who parties too hard his freshman year and moderates or quits once they are confronted with the possibility of flunking out.  Or, how about a pain patient who starts using more than the prescribed dose, running out of prescriptions before the end of the month and doctor shops to get more to avoid withdrawal? He/She finally talk about the problem with their doc and come up with a new pain management plan. Are these people in recovery? I don’t think so. Would they answer yes to the question above? Probably.

I’m all for normalizing recovery, but the message of this article is misleading. The question they used doesn’t really tell me how many people are in “recovery”.