The typical coverage of addiction treatment and recovery tends to obscure the fact that many people recover from addiction. While the pain and anguish experienced by the families and friends of those who do not recover is undeniable, it is likewise undeniable that many do recover. To the casual observer, who only follows popular depictions, this might not be apparent.

The Center’s mission includes a mandate to help preserve and expand multiple pathways to recovery by highlighting studies, successes and information that does not receive broad coverage in the usual media channels. Few stories heralding success and recovery from addiction make the headlines. Scant coverage is given to stories of recovery when the source (pathway) of that recovery does not align with a narrowly defined medical-heavy narrative. Yet, even when medicine is used to facilitate some aspect of recovery, there is much more required than merely prescribing a pill.

As with most subjects covered by popular media, stories of loss and death predominate.

While the pain and anguish experienced by the families and friends of those who do not recover is undeniable, it is likewise undeniable that many do recover. To the casual observer, who solely follows popular coverage, this might not be apparent. Mentioning this is not a downplay of the crisis of addiction we currently face. Instead, it is a recognition that it is also important to publish information about recovery and hope that clearly demonstrates the value of preserving and expanding multiple pathways to recovery.

Without lessening our collective efforts to help those who most need help, much could be learned by studying and strengthening the range of existing pathways which can and do lead to recovery. Following are a few examples:

The book, Promoting self-change from addictive behaviors: practical implications for policy, prevention, and treatment starts with this premise: “Many are addicted. Few are treated. Yet many who are not treated recover.” This book examines something called natural recovery as a clinical phenomenon, a field of inquiry, and a vital component of therapy. It includes as a stated goal bringing clinicians and counselors to “a new understanding of addiction and recovery.” For more information, see Natural Recovery.

Evaluating the Brain Disease Model of Addiction is a new book authored by a range of experts and includes sections both supporting and countering the officially sanctioned Brain Disease Model of Addiction (BDMA). The final section examines alternatives to the BDMA. A webinar featuring several of the book’s authors is available on the Addiction Theory Network website: Evaluating the Brain Disease Model of Addiction webinar.

The Clean Slate Addiction Site, whose clearly controversial tag line is “Addiction is not a disease” is a personal website published by Steven Slate, who is also a research fellow with the Baldwin Research Institute (BRI), an independent not-for-profit that develops solutions for people with drug and alcohol problems. From Mr. Slate: “My work entails observational research; analyzing diverse research/trials/data on drugs and addiction; developing educational content about drugs and addiction, written mainly for people with substance use problems; and conducting classes for people with substance use problems, that I personally fund, and that I have been personally managing since 2010, when I was not employed by BRI, and should not be seen as an official website of BRI.” His writings include an essay challenging the brain disease model of addiction and a book titled The Freedom Model for Addictions: Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap.

As recently highlighted on this site, National Public Radio (NPR) published a piece entitled There is life after addiction. Most people recover. The articles cites an important and hopeful fact: Most Americans who experience alcohol and drug addiction survive. They recover and go on to live full and healthy lives. The piece links to studies that support this hopeful view which underscores the importance of supporting multiple pathways to recovery instead of focusing on a single one-size-fits-all approach. The article notes that these findings contradict the widespread misperception that substance-use disorder is a permanent affliction that is often (or even usually) fatal.

Scientific American published an article titled Do-It-Yourself Addiction Cures? The article cites the stories of former drug and alcohol users who reported impressive results without professional treatment, through the phenomenon of self-change. The article concludes, “We may learn a great deal from people who successfully change addictive behaviors on their own. Whatever they are doing, they are doing something right. … Greater knowledge about self-change and how it comes about might be used to help people who are not in treatment find ways of shedding their addictions as well as to enhance the effectiveness of our treatment programs.”