On November 17, 2016, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a call to action to local, state and national leaders to end “the public health crisis of addiction.” The report, Facing Addiction in America: the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health marked the first time a U.S. Surgeon General dedicated a report on alcohol and drug addiction and includes recovery as part of the multipronged approach needed to address the public health crisis.

The report focuses on the impact of alcohol and drug addiction, with chapters dedicated to the science of addiction, prevention, early intervention, treatment, and an entire chapter on recovery and the many paths to wellness.

The findings of the report aren’t new to members of the recovery community. We’ve long known that the cure to this current public health crisis will require not just focusing on one drug, but all of them. We have been advocating to eradicate negative attitudes and change the ways that people think about addiction and recovery – while recognizing that we need to understand the science of addiction, intervene early, expand access to good quality treatment on demand, and expand recovery supports and services.

What is significant is that Dr. Murthy echoed much of what we have been advocating: because addiction is a chronic illness, it requires ongoing recovery supports and services (RSS) that are critical to helping people build and sustain their recovery.

Key Findings

  • Remission from alcohol and drug addiction can take several years and multiple episodes of treatment, RSS, and /or mutual aid and includes many pathways to recovery
  • Mutual aid groups and newly emerging recovery support programs and organizations (RCOs) are a key part of the system of continuing care for alcohol and drug addiction.
  • Effectiveness of other recovery supports (educational settings, alcohol and drug-focused mutual aid groups, and recovery housing) is evident
  • More research on recovery supports and services is required

The report also looks at the multiple components of the emerging recovery field, which includes mutual aid groups, recovery coaching, recovery housing, as important recovery supports and services. Attention is also paid to the Recovery Management Check-up (RMC) model, which draws from the monitoring and early re-intervention protocols used for other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Similarly, recovery community centers, recovery high schools and collegiate recovery programs, as well as social and recreational recovery infrastructures are identified as promising recovery supports and services in the continuum of care.

The recovery section of the report concludes that “although the professionally-led health and social service system should engage with peer-led service organizations, maintaining the informal, and grassroots nature of many recovery supports and services may be central to their appeal and quite possibly their effectiveness.”

By breaking the stigma around addiction and recovery through sharing our personal stories of hope and healing, we are shifting the way alcohol and drug addiction is viewed and treated.

“We must help everyone see that addiction is not a character flaw – it is a chronic illness that we must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” Dr. Murthy writes. “We have learned that recovery has many pathways that should be tailored to fit the unique cultural values and psychological and behavioral health needs of each individual.”

Understanding the Face of Recovery

While cutting-edge research is being conducted in universities, clinics and hospitals throughout the world, much more is needed.

Noted addiction and recovery scholar, William White, believes we could see an increase in recovery research for a variety of reasons.

Read About Future Research

Collectively, these forces are motivating people in recovery to further their education and extend their avocation of volunteer service work into a vocation within the addictions field. To learn more, check out William White’s full post on the topic.

The following are studies from some of the country’s leading experts on addiction and recovery. We will continue to add others as we become aware of them. If you know of a recovery-focused study that you think should be included on this page, please send it to us at info@www.for-ny.org.

You can also find a multitude of research, white papers and essays on the topic of Recovery at William White Papers and the Recovery Research Institute.