Summary and Analysis

An article in Scientific American titled “Do-It-Yourself Addiction Cures?” reports on a phenomena known as self-change also referred to as natural recovery. The idea of ‘self-change’ or ‘natural recovery’ refers to someone who has overcome substance use problems without ever receiving any sort of formal treatment or attending 12-step groups. The article outlines several studies and reports on this phenomena including a series of studies beginning in 1974 on drug use and recovery in Vietnam veterans. That study found that “After discharge to the U.S. … only 12 percent of those who had been addicted in Vietnam were found to be in that state at any time during the three-year follow-up. Fewer than 5 percent had overcome their addiction through therapy.”

Excerpted from Scientific American

The authors of the article are Hal Arkowitz and Sscott O. Lilienfeld serve on the board of advisers for Scientific American Mind. Arkowitz is a psychology professor at the University of Arizona and Lilienfeld is a psychology professor at Emory University.

The authors conclude that more and better research is needed on the potential for self-change to conquer problem drinking and other addictions. Studies suffer from differences in the definitions of important terms such as “addiction,” “treatment” and “recovery.” We also do not know of any studies on self-change with prescription drug addiction.