"Summarizing data from six large studies, one analysis estimated that the proportion of the United States adult population that is in remission from a substance use disorder of any severity is approximately 10.3 percent (with a range of 5.3 to 15.3 percent).29 This estimate is consistent with findings from a different national survey, which found that approximately 10 percent, or 1 in 10, of United States adults say, 'Yes,' when asked, 'Did you once have a problem with drugs or alcohol but no longer do?' These percentages translate to roughly 25 million United States adults being in remission.29 It is not yet known what proportion of adolescents defines themselves as being in recovery.

"Despite negative stereotypes of “hopeless addicts,” rigorous follow-up studies of treated adult populations, who tend to have the most chronic and severe disorders, show more than 50 percent achieving sustained remission, defined as remission that lasted for at least 1 year.29 Latest estimates from national epidemiological research using the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for substance use disorder show similar rates of remission.30,31 Despite these findings, widely held pessimistic views about the chances of remission or recovery from substance use disorders may continue to affect public opinion in part because sustained recovery lasting a year or longer can take several years and multiple episodes of treatment, recovery support, and/or mutual aid services to achieve. By some estimates, it can take as long as 8 or 9 years after a person first seeks formal help to achieve sustained recovery.32,33

"In studies published since 2000, the rate of sustained remission following substance use disorder treatment among adolescents is roughly 35 percent. This estimate is provisional because most studies used small samples and/or had short follow-up durations.29 Despite the potentially lower remission rate for adolescents, early detection and intervention can help a young person get to remission faster.29"


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS, November 2016.