Can We Please Stop Saying Recovery is Possible?

September 24, 2020
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Imagine this scenario. You get the terrible diagnoses of cancer, like addiction, it is terminal if left on its dreadful course unimpeded. You are in the depths of despair, facing everything this terrible diagnosis means for your life.

The treating professional turns to you and says “recovery is possible. It is POSSIBLE you might survive this, it does HAPPEN.”

I would not be reassured by such a scenario, and the truth of the matter is that people beat cancer every day. This is a result of an advancement in science, a commitment to fund care and a dedication to follow multiple pathways of care, people who get that diagnosis survive. This occurs because the care team never gives up and keeps working until they hit on the combination of care needed for the person to move into remission. In respect to cancer, the truth of the matter is that the death rate from cancer in the US declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017. This occurred in large part due to a commitment to study outcomes over the long term and to fund care.  What this means for a person sitting in the chair learning that they have cancer is that the treating professional knows which treatments have the best chances of getting you into and sustaining them in remission for five years. They also know that there is wide variation in what works for whom. This means that they use multiple treatments and combinations of care to achieve remission

We know that addiction recovery is a probable outcome given the proper care and support they need 85% of the people who stay in recovery for a period of five years stay in recovery for the rest of their lives

Let’s start using more accurate language:

Recovery is the probable outcome for people with substance use disorders when they provided proper care and support.   

We need to focus on long term recovery as our focus of all addiction policy. Let’s study long term recovery and support multiple pathways and service strategies. Let’s do a moon shot, national focus on recovery so that in twenty years we can say that we reduced deaths from addiction dramatically, just like we did with cancer.

That starts with framing our discussion with the proper language of recovery as the probable outcome when people get what they need to get to get better and acknowledging we are a long way from achieving a system that provides that focus for all Americans.

So please stop saying recovery is possible and let’s focus on recovery being probable if we move towards recovery focused policy so we change our care systems to reflect the needs of persons seeking help with a substance use disorder.  

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