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It’s time to measure addiction recovery rates, not just addiction rates

September 26th, 2018

Lost among the headlines of opioid addiction and overdose deaths are the many quiet stories of recovery. An estimated 22 million Americans— that includes the three of us — are in recovery from opioid and other addictions. We say “estimated” because states and the federal government don’t track recovery like they track addiction rates or overdoses.

Oregon, recently ranked last in providing mental health and addiction treatment services by Mental Health America, and almost last in terms of adults needing but not receiving treatment for substance use disorders, is about to change that. We urge other states to follow.

In the midst of a serious addiction crisis, in which 72,000 people died from overdoses in 2017, it can be easy to forget that recovery is not only possible but is the reality for nearly 10 percent of U.S. adults. Losing sight of that can skew public policy and funding priorities to narrowly focus on preventing deaths instead of aiming more broadly to both reduce unnecessary deaths and promote long-term wellness among the 20 million Americans who have a substance use disorder — barely 4 million of whom receive treatment.

Robert D. AshfordOlivia Pennelle and Brent Canode/STAT

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