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

Data Show More Than 23 Million Adults Living in U.S. Once Had  Drug or Alcohol Problems, But No Longer Do

New York, NY, March, 6 2012 – Survey data released today by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) show that 10 percent of all American adults, ages 18 and older, consider themselves to be in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse problems. These nationally representative findings indicate that there are 23.5 million American adults who are overcoming an involvement with drugs or alcohol that they once considered to be problematic.

According to the new survey funded by OASAS, 10 percent of adults surveyed said yes to the question, “Did you once have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but no longer do?” – one simple way of describing recovery from drug and alcohol abuse or addiction.

“The OASAS study is an important contribution to the public’s understanding of recovery, as it represents the actual voices of millions of Americans whose lives have improved because they are living free of alcohol and other drug problems,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “This new learning provides a big reason – more than 23 million reasons – for all those who are struggling with their own, or a loved one’s substance use disorder, to have hope and know that they are not alone. These findings serve as a reminder that addiction is a treatable disease and recovery can be a reality. We are just scratching the surface here and more research is needed in this area, but we are proud to collaborate with New York OASAS in this meaningful process.”

“This research marks a vitally important step for those who are struggling with addiction by offering clear evidence to support what many know experientially – that millions of Americans have found a path to recovery,” said New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez. “It is my hope that this new evidence will strengthen and inspire individuals and those that provide treatment and recovery services to help the broader community understand that treatment does work and recovery is possible.” 

Other self-reported findings from the new data conclude that: 

  • More males say they are in recovery than females (12 percent vs. 7 percent).
  • More adults ages 35-44 report being in recovery, compared to younger adults (18-34) and adults who are 55 years of age or older.
  • The Midwest has a higher prevalence of adults (14 percent) who say they are in recovery compared to adults in the South (7 percent). In other regions of the country, the percentage of adults[1] who say they are in recovery is 11 percent for the West and 9 percent for the Northeast.

The study also found no significant difference between parents and adults without children who say they are in recovery. This demonstrates that parents are as likely as non-parents to be in recovery. 

“This new research also supports findings from a groundbreaking survey done for Faces and Voices of Recovery by Peter Hart Associates that provided the initial evidence that there was a large population in recovery in the United States,” said Tom Hedrick, Senior Program Officer and one of the founding members of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Those 2004 findings concluded that ‘38 percent of adults have a family member or close friend (or both) who is in recovery from addiction to alcohol or other drugs.’”

 Insights from Experts in the Field of Substance Abuse and Addiction:

“I’ve learned that there is ‘a science of addiction, but not a science of recovery.’ With the survey conducted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and OASAS, we now have a very strong beginning to developing that science. Through past initiatives, we established some sensible definitions of what ‘being in recovery’ actually means – and this additional work provides fundamental information on how many people are in recovery. These are not only the building blocks for the ‘recovery science’ that have been called for, but they are the foundation for public understanding, acceptance and ultimately, the celebration of recovery.”  A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, Former Deputy Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

“Every American is acutely aware of the negative impact of drug and alcohol addiction; it’s impossible to ignore. Yet we have somehow missed a very positive story about addiction that is right in front of our nose: Tens of millions of our fellow citizens come out the other side to live substance-free, healthy and productive lives. This study is a wake-up call to the reality of recovery in America, as well as a source of hope for the millions of American families who are currently struggling with drug and alcohol problems.”  — Keith Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine

“As these findings demonstrate, recovery is everywhere. All across our country people are living healthy and productive lives in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, benefiting themselves, their families and communities. Recovery is our best kept secret. It’s time to invest in understanding the solution to alcohol and other drug problems, advocate for the right resources to recover and demonstrate the power and proof of long-term recovery, offering hope to the over 23 million Americans who have yet to find recovery.”  — Pat Taylor, Executive Director, Faces and Voices of Recovery 

“This research is vitally important – it shows that, until now, even addiction experts have been unaware of how many people across the country are in sustained recovery. We often hear about the latest celebrity’s bad behavior, but it’s rare for the public to see people overcome their addictions, achieve their goals, and go on to become great parents, employees, citizens, etc. The public won’t know these success stories unless we tell them, and that’s what this research does. It breaks new ground and provides tremendous inspiration for those who are currently struggling with drug and/or alcohol problems and their families.” — Deni Carise, PhD, Chief Clinical Officer, Phoenix House Foundation

Resources for Those in Recovery and for Families Facing Addiction

the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is reaching families directly through its transformative campaign, You Are Not Alone, which calls on all those affected by addiction – individuals, families, communities and organizations – to take action and help our loved ones in need. You Are Not Alone comes to life in a collection of visual stories, each one a message dedicated to the families of the 11 million teens or young adults who are struggling with substance abuse.

This public storytelling – stories of hope and healing – puts a face to the disease of addiction and brings together the millions directly impacted with those who currently know someone who needs help.

For those families who are currently struggling with addiction or have a loved one who is in recovery, please visit the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’s online resource, Recover at

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Survey Methodology 

The nationally representative survey from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and OASAS was conducted among 2,526 adults, ages 18 and older, living in the United States. Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) conducted the survey in 2011, with a sample consisting of 1,272 male and 1,254 female respondents and with a margin of error +/- 2 percentage points.

ORC CARAVAN® random-digit-dial omnibus survey is conducted among adults 18 years of age and older living in private households in the continental United States. It is a multi-client nationally projectable study and the sample includes both unlisted and listed landline telephone numbers and is fully replicated and stratified by region. All national telephone surveys are weighted to U.S. Census data for age, gender, geographic region, education and race in order to improve the projectability and reliability of the random telephone sample. The survey is enhanced with a sample of cell phone interviews to reflect the growing importance of adults who do not have landlines or rarely use them. This captures the best representation of the adult population, especially among younger adults 18-34.

Survey Question: “Did you used to have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but no longer do?”

About the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Ninety percent of addictions start in the teenage years. The Partnership at is dedicated to helping families solve the problem of teen substance abuse. Bringing together renowned scientists, parent experts and communications professionals, this public health nonprofit translates research on teen behavior, parenting, addiction and treatment into useful and effective resources at Its You Are Not Alone campaign is dedicated to supporting families of the 11 million teens and young adults who need addiction treatment, while the organization’s community education programs reach families at the grassroots level. the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’s mission to help parents prevent, intervene in and find treatment for drug and alcohol use by their children depends on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and the public sector. We are thankful to SAG/AFTRA and the advertising and media industries for their ongoing generosity.

 About OASAS

OASAS oversees one of the nation’s largest addiction services systems dedicated to Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, with more than 1,550 programs serving over 110,000 New Yorkers on any given day. To get help for someone in need, call the toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day a week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY. For more information, please visit Follow OASAS: / facebook profile: NYS OASAS / /

[1] not statistically significant

13 Responses

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    December 10, 2016 at 10:13 PM

    This is a beautiful thing. I wonder how many people with start doing Smart program over AA/NA?

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    November 22, 2015 at 12:59 AM

    This is the biggest bunch of nonsense I have ever heard. Answering yes or no to that question does not signify that you are in recovery. I can think of tons of people who, being clean from heroin, are still drinking alcohol because they believe that heroin is there problem – not alcohol – – – and those very people would answer “yes” to that question in the survey. Ask anyone who is actually in the recovery community and they will tell you – recovery means complete 100% sobriety from all substances (including nights and weekends.. including alcohol.. including marijuana) for an extended period of time with an ongoing commitment to continue that way. My dad drank alcohol heavily while he was in college and stated that he felt that he had a serious drinking problem. Since then, he drinks a glass of wine with dinner a few nights a week for years and years and has not had an issue – – but he is NOT in recovery because he didn’t have a legitimate alcohol dependence problem – – – if he did have a legit alcohol dependence problem, he wouldn’t be able to control his drinking – he would need to stop alcohol. I can tell you that any time I pretty much go to any social gathering that is not with 12 step program people – but any “regular” gathering if you want to call it that – – it always seems that I’m one of the only people who is not consuming alcohol. So I ask you, where are these 10% that you speak of? The next time you go anywhere that there is alcohol served, look around and see if 10% of the people aren’t drinking (designated drivers do not count). Stop confusing people about what recovery means.

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    Harvey Justmann

    April 13, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    Please send link to study. Thank you.

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    Edward-Yemil Rosario

    March 19, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    Where is the DIRECT link to the study?

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