A 2015 review of Life in Recovery surveys in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia highlighted 20 conclusions of these surveys and related epidemiologic studies on remission from substance use disorders. The profiled studies confirm substantial recovery prevalence within the general populations, the diversity of people in recovery, the diversity of pathways of recovery initiation and maintenance, and the substantial improvements in health and quality of life that accrue with time in recovery.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has just released Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada, confirming and amplifying many of the findings from the earlier studies. Here are a few highlights from this report.
Self-identified Canadians in Recovery report substantial past problem severity, with more than 70% having experienced each of six major diagnostic criteria for addiction. Most began substance use by their mid-teens and reported onset of addiction between the ages of 15-25. The most frequently reported primary drug choices in order of prevalence were alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, heroin, prescription opioids, and methamphetamine.
Most (52.4%) Canadians in recovery define recovery in terms of abstinence (with a minority of less than 1% reporting controlled use) combined with enhancement of global health and functioning.
Canadians in addiction recovery report substantial gains in health, quality of life, and social functioning.
–70.6% report overall quality of life as excellent, very good, or good.
–80.0% report their physical health as excellent, very good, or good
–In comparing addiction time to recovery time:
* regular exercise increased from 16.5% to 68.7%
* regular medical checkups increased from 33.7% to 82.8%
* healthy eating habits increased from 14.5% to 82.1%
* use of tobacco products decreased from 80.1% to 34.2%
–84.3% report their mental health as excellent, very good, or good.
–78.9% of Canadians in recovery are employed, 11.3% are retired or semi-retired, and 6.5% are students.
–Comparing addiction time to recovery time, reported arrests dropped from 42.3% to 2.3%; jail or prison time dropped from 13.9% to 1.4%; and driving under the influence dropped from 80.2% to 3.5%.
Canadians in recovery report substantial shifts in family and community involvement in comparing time in addiction and time in recovery.
–Participation in family activities increased from 31% to 90.3%
–Rates of reported family violence and lost custody of children all dropped precipitously following recovery initiation,
–Volunteering with a community or civic group increased from 14.4% to 66.8%
–Rates of paying bills, paying current and back taxes, all substantially increased after recovery initiation.
Canadians in recovery report using a wide variety of resources to help initiate and maintain their recovery, including 12-Step mutual support groups, professionally-directed addiction treatment, psychiatric or psychological therapy, recovery housing, non-12 Step mutual support groups, and medication-assisted treatment. More than 50% of respondents also reported using such supports as family and friends, religious or meditative practices, reading recovery literature, pets, exercise, nutrition, recovery websites or social media, and cultural values and traditions.
A significant portion of Canadians in recovery report current use of a prescription drug to treat a co-occurring physical (37.2%) or mental (35.2%) condition, but only 1.8% report current use of a medication for the management of addiction. 20.2% of survey respondents report having used medication-assisted treatment to help initiate their recovery.
More than half (51.2%) of Canadians in recovery report no subsequent experience of relapse following recovery initiation.
More than half (53.4%) of Canadians in recovery report more than five years of time in recovery, with 20.7% reporting more than 20 years in recovery from addiction.
The Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada report is the latest investigation confirming the possibility of sustained recovery from addiction through a diversity of recovery pathways. It affirms the value of communities creating the physical, psychological, and social space within which personal/family recovery from addictions can flourish. For the full report, click HERE.

Post Date May 26, 2017 by Bill White



Post Date- May 18, 2017 by Bill White
The prevalence, pathways, processes, stages, and styles of long-term addiction recovery for individuals is slowly being revealed through the accumulation of scientific studies, but the parallel processes of family recovery remain in the scientific shadows. An important new study by two UK colleagues seeks to shed light on the recovery experience of addiction-affected families. Below is a brief summary of the study and a link to participate. I encourage my readers to share their lived experience through participation in this important study.
Bill White
Living with Addiction and Recovery
Catrin Andersson and David Best (Helena Kennedy Centre, Department of Law and Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University)
There is now clear and consistent evidence that recovery is a process or a journey that lasts around five years before people can sustain their own recovery without help. There is also a growing body of evidence that recovery is intrinsically social and that key individuals in the person’s life are critical to supporting and encouraging and facilitating change. And we know much of how this happens through a survey of recovery experiences conducted by Faces and Voices of Recovery in 2013 in the US which showed the extent of the recovery journey.
Critical to the recovery process is the family and loved ones- not only may they be witnesses to the descent into substance addiction, they may also bear the brunt of much of the chaos that addiction brings. This may take the form of financial loss, disruption to the family home and the heartache of uncertainty of whether their loved one is safe, in control or even alive. In addition to these various burdens, they will also often experience the exclusion, the stigma, the shame and the isolation that addiction can visit on families.
Yet the family journey has not been well documented in research. Similarly, their experiences have not been served as well by an advocacy movement that has focused primarily (although not exclusively) on the experiences of the person in recovery.
From what we do know, the family also has their own recovery road to travel and this may not match, in chronology or in context, that of the person overcoming their own addiction. This journey may involve a complete reconciliation with the addict in recovery or may necessitate that they move on in their lives independently from the person they love.
But we know very little about this process and there has been a limited opportunity to give a voice to this hidden group. From the perspective of society, families will often bear the costs of addiction and buffer the effects on society by picking up the pieces every time the addict falls over. Yet our research endeavours have not attempted to quantify how this happens and what recovery means for family members.
In the UK, a partnership between the Desistance and Recovery Research Group at Sheffield Hallam University and Adfam, the national UK charity for families of addicts, has been funded by Alcohol Research UK to create an amended version of the Life in Recovery survey that specifically targets the family experience. It has been pilot tested in the UK with a range of family support groups and is now available online until the ends of July at
Families Living with Addiction and Recovery survey
If you want to have your say, and have your story told, and at the same time to contribute to a new body of research on family experiences please complete the survey. This will allow the research team to communicate to families not only that they are not alone on the journey, but also to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that there is hope – hope for the addict and hope for the family. While the survey primarily targets the UK, we welcome responses from any country. We will also summarise the findings and let you know what the study finds.
May 18, 2017 by Bill White


Post Date May 12, 2017 by Bill White

The most famous and controversial treatment for addiction in the 19th century was Dr. Leslie Keeley’s Bichloride of Gold Cure. Dr. Keeley franchised his cure procedures through more than 120 Keeley Institutes scattered across North America and Europe. These Institutes became the preferred drying out institutions for the rich and famous in the 1890s. But the problem then (as today) was this: Even where there are financial resources to pay for such treatment, how can the afflicted person be convinced to enter such a treatment institution?
There were four general resolutions of this dilemma: self-motivation resulting from the accumulated pain of addiction, company pressure upon an alcohol/drug-impaired employee, pressure from families, and legal commitment of the inebriate (for as long as four years). Family pressure to enter treatment sometimes involved processes similar to what today would be called “intervention,” but these processes did not always go as planned, as is revealed in the following account from Alfred Calhoun’s 1892 book, Is It a Modern Miracle? A Careful Investigation of the Keeley Gold Cure for Drunkenness and the Opium Habit.
As this story unfolds, a family at its wit’s end responds to the chronic drunkenness of one of its members by hosting a meeting of all concerned. The upshot of this meeting is that the young man in question, who we shall call Robert, was to be sent to the Keeley Institute headquarters in Dwight, Illinois, to undergo the Keeley Cure. Seriously doubting Robert’s ability to make this trip on his own, the family enlisted the aid of his uncle to accompany him during the travel to the Keeley Institute in Dwight, Illinois.
On the following day, Robert and his uncle set off for the long trip to Dwight. Robert pleaded with his uncle to stop periodically for alcoholic refreshment on the grounds that this was the only way to stave off the onset of “DTs.” The uncle agreed to such stops, willing to humor his young nephew in any manner that would keep them moving toward Dwight. But the additional catch was that Robert refused to drink such medicinal libation unless his uncle would join him. Although quite an abstemious person, the uncle agreed to imbibe with his nephew as long as they could keep proceeding to Dwight.
So at each stop, which seemed to increase in frequency as the pair neared Dwight, both Robert and his uncle downed various alcoholic concoctions. By the time the now well-oiled pair reached Dwight, both were in a state of considerable intoxication, although they looked quite different. Robert, whose alcohol tolerance was massive, didn’t look too worse for the wear. His uncle, however, whose alcohol tolerance was virtually non-existent, was nearly unconscious by the time they entered the doors of the Keeley Institute.
Upon their arrival, Robert admitted his uncle to the Keeley Institute and absconded with his uncle’s prized car. It took several days to get the uncle sobered up and the nephew located, returned to Dwight, and admitted to treatment. Getting someone in treatment then, as now, was not always easy. But some of the 19th century treatment centers did find ways to keep people in treatment once they were finally admitted: At admission, they took all of their clothes and all of their money!
*For more on the “Keeley Cure” see, the new edition of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America.


May 5, 2017 Bill White
Efforts by professionals to “treat” alcoholism and other addictions have a long and colorful history. Alcoholics have been forced to drink their own urine and forced to drink wine in which an eel had been suffocated. They have been surreptitiously dosed with everything from mole blood to sparrow dung and subjected to the “Swedish treatment” in which everything they consumed and even their clothes and bedding were saturated with whiskey. They have been prescribed dietary treatments that included the apple, salt, grape, banana, onion, and watermelon cures. They have been fed gold, iron, and bark to quell their appetite for alcohol.
Harm done in the name of good is an enduring theme in the history of addiction treatment. Even Dr. Benjamin Rush, the father of the American disease concept of alcoholism, treated alcoholics by blistering, bleeding, and unknowingly poisoning them with mercury-laden medicines. In the 19th century, alcoholics and addicts were routinely prescribed alcohol, narcotics, marijuana, sedatives, stimulants, and hallucinogens. Dr. J. B. Bently prescribed cocaine by the pound as a treatment for alcohol and morphine addiction and reported, as a testament to the cocaine’s effectiveness, that his patients were requesting additional quantities of cocaine and that they had completely lost their appetite for alcohol and morphine. “Bromide sleep treatments” for narcotic withdrawal killed 20% of patients undergoing the procedure. A physician, noting that alcohol intake decreased among his patients suffering active stages of gonorrhea, recommended medically infecting alcoholics with gonorrhea as a way to save the expense of sanatorium treatment.
Through the first half of the 20th century, alcoholics and addicts were subjected to legally mandated sterilization on the grounds that it would prevent the birth of future generations of alcoholics and could treat the underlying physical causes of alcoholism. Early 20th century “serum therapies” involved raising blisters on the addict’s skin, withdrawing the serum from the blisters, and then injecting this serum into the addict during withdrawal. There were also withdrawal therapies in the 1930s utilizing substances that could induce psychoses of up to two months’ duration.
Alcoholics and addicts were indiscriminately exposed to whatever was in vogue within the broader arenas of medicine or psychiatry. The 1940s and 1950s witnessed addiction treatments that included electroconvulsive and insulin shock therapies and the use of psychosurgery (the prefrontal lobotomy). At least one alcoholic commended the latter, reporting that, following the surgery, he could get “twice as tight on half the hooch.” The 1950s also witnessed the use of methamphetamine as a medically prescribed substitute for alcohol and heroin—a practice that nurtured the subsequent growth of a methamphetamine injection subculture.
It is easy to look back with condescension at the practice of treating morphine addiction with cocaine or alcoholism with practically every other psychoactive drug. It is easy to look back with outrage at the mandatory sterilization of alcoholics or their being blistered, bled, and subjected to invasive interventions from psychosurgery to shock therapies. The harmfulness of these interventions was not visible in their own times, and their introductions were often framed within the rubric of a scientific breakthrough. It is worth asking the question: What within today’s menu of addiction treatment services will prompt future historians to look back on these practices and reflect, “What the hell were they thinking?”
History demands that those seeking help for alcohol- and other drug-related problems honor the adage, “Let the buyer beware” and demand that treatment providers adhere to the ultimate ethical mandate: “First do no harm!”
For additional information on the early treatment of addiction in the United States, see the new edition of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America.

Post Date May 5, 2017 by Bill White


Recent decades have witnessed calls for the cultural and political mobilization of people in addiction recovery as well as the subsequent rise of a new recovery advocacy movement in the U.S. and internationally. Beyond my efforts to document the history of this movement and to offer broad U.S. policy guidance, I have tried to remain silent on partisan political issues, as the constituencies that make up this movement and my readership span a rainbow of political viewpoints. However, there are limits to such silence.
Today, I am troubled by potential shifts in national drug policy and its effects on individuals and families experiencing and recovering from addiction and its related problems. Troubling are the invisibility (not even a functioning website), lack of leadership, and potential elimination of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy—all while the opioid epidemic continues to lay bodies at the nation’s doorstep. Troubling are efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, whose provisions facilitated the growing integration of addiction treatment and primary health care in the U.S. Troubling is the appointment of another presidential study commission while virtually ignoring the landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health prepared by the nation’s leading addiction experts and released by the Surgeon General in 2016 shortly before his dismissal by the new administration. Troubling is a new Attorney General of the United States who seems enamored by the heady drug wars of the 1980s and 1990s that produced the largest wave of mass incarceration of addicts (and people of color) in U.S. history.
These potential concerns, all that may be resolved via future developments, pale in comparison to what has unfolded in communications between the U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. By way of background, President Duterte has likened himself to Hitler and expressed his desire and intent to “slaughter” his country’s three million drug addicts. To date, his violence-inciting rhetoric and policies are directly responsible for the extrajudicial killing of more than 7,000 “drug personalities” and the related deaths of bystanders (including children) during hundreds off anti-drug raids and attacks by government-sanctioned vigilante groups.

Following a highly criticized initial call between the two presidents, President Duterte reported “He [President Trump] was quite sensitive to our war on drugs and he wishes me well in my campaign and said that we are doing, as he so put it, ‘the right way.’” This past week, President Trump invited President Duterte to visit the White House to discuss the improving relationships between the Philippines and the U.S. Such an invitation should not have been extended, and such a visit should not take place.
The systematic killing of members of any stigmatized group by a government (the very definition of genocide) is morally reprehensible and should be resisted by any and all means necessary. The actions and policies of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte should be publically condemned by all Americans, and President Duterte should not be welcomed by our leaders to walk the halls of the White House.
Evil incubates in the soil of silence. Even facing sure death, non-violent resistance groups like The White Rose* organized to resist the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Perhaps it is time for formation of The Purple Rose—recovery advocates, their allies, and other Americans of conscience who will not passively and silently witness the abomination of President Rodrigo Duterte being warmly embraced by the President of the United States at the entrance to the White House. There is a time for silent reflection and a time for active resistance. The time for resistance has arrived.
*I wish to acknowledge the Florida Repertory Theatre and playwright David Meyers whose provocative play, We will Not Be Silent, brought the inspiring story of Sophie Scholl and The White Rose to my attention.

Post Date May 1, 2017 by Bill White