The Impact of Addiction in Families and Communities – How Treatment and Recovery Make a DifferenceAnna Ciulla
The added value of treatment and recovery to families and communities can be hard to measure—especially when obscured by more sensationalist headlines about today’s deadly opiate epidemic. That’s why we have done some of that data analysis for you, based on what research says are the pay-offs to your family and community from getting help for an addiction. Discover what they are here.
What is the impact of addiction on families and communities, and how do treatment and recovery make a difference? As part of this year’s “National Recovery Month” and its theme of “Strengthening Families and Communities,” this article will answer that question, based on recent scientific data from surveys and studies, as well as the experience and treatment outcomes of clients at Beach House Center for Recovery.
National Recovery Month is an annual initiative organized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and seeks to mobilize individuals, families, and communities affected by substance abuse in a nationwide celebration of recovery—for good reason. At a time in our nation’s history when most of what we hear daily in the news are headlines about an escalating opiate epidemic capture, it can be easy to overlook the reality that many people go on to recover from drug and alcohol addiction and lead healthy, productive lives as active and contributing members of society. For more of this encouraging story, read on.
How Recovery After Treatment Is More Common Than No Recovery After Treatment
When 44 percent of Americans reportedly know someone who is addicted to prescription painkillers—and when one in five of these same Americans say the person is a family member—addiction is lamentably common in this country. But what many don’t know is that recovery, following treatment, is actually more common than addiction that goes unabated. See What’s the Success Rate of Alcohol Recovery? for more information as it pertains to alcohol treatment.
A 2006 USA Today/HBO Family Drug Addiction poll, undertaken by Gallup, surveyed Americans with a family member affected by drug or alcohol abuse, and found that:
- The “vast majority” of poll respondents whose family member sought treatment—82%—said their family member got better after treatment. 38 percent of these same family members in recovery made “a complete recovery.” By contrast, just 14% showed no improvement after treatment.
- More family members with addiction had recovered than family members who had not, according to survey respondents (41 percent of whom said their loved one recovered, as opposed to 30 percent of whom said their family member had not recovered).
How Medication-Assisted Treatment Is Making a Positive Difference in Communities
While deaths from overdose often get more attention in today’s opiate epidemic, what often goes overlooked is how Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is reducing rates of overdose in some communities across the country. One case in point, cited in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the city of Baltimore. There the introduction of MAT (such as buprenorphine) for opiate use disorders cut the overdose rate in half. Elsewhere, too, MAT has decreased opiate use and opiate-related overdose deaths, boosted retention in treatment, and lowered criminal activity and infectious disease transmission, by the account of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The Positive Benefits of Recovery to Your Community – More Volunteerism, Less Crime and a Lower Burden on the Healthcare System
If families and communities have much to lose from the ravages of addiction, they also have much to gain from the contributions of those who make a comeback from substance abuse—starting with the significantly higher rate at which people in recovery give back to their community through volunteerism and service. Consider, for example, the following finding from a “Life in Recovery” survey by the U.K.-based Sheffield Hallam University: People in recovery are almost twice as likely to volunteer as other members of the public. Roughly 8 out of 10 people in recovery reportedly volunteer in community or civic groups, in contrast to only 4 out of 10 people from the general population who say they regularly volunteer in such groups.
These results are consistent with the Beach House experience. During treatment, clients learn early on that giving back to their community is critical to successful recovery, via exposure to local service opportunities like Loggerhead Marine Life Center and its rescue and rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles. Many of our clients, upon graduation from treatment, go on to serve their communities in various ways. Why? Because they have come to understand that local community involvement and service are intrinsic to successfully overcoming an addiction.
The Sheffield-Hallam study also found that people in long-term recovery (five years or more) have less involvement with healthcare services and the criminal justice system.
How Recovery Makes a Positive Difference in the Workplace
Steady employment is another more obvious measure of how recovery positively impacts both families and communities. The Sheffield-Hallam survey found that 74 percent of those in recovery report they have maintained a stable job.
For clients who come through our drug and alcohol programs at Beach House Center for Recovery, the treatment outcomes are similarly encouraging: an independent third party found that 62 percent of our alumni were either steadily employed or in full-time school following treatment. (You can find more of our treatment outcomes here
How Recovery Strengthens Families
Recovery is evidently also good for families, according to the results of the Sheffield-Hallam survey:
- 39.4% of families with an active drug or alcohol user in their midst experience domestic violence, but this number drops to only 7 percent when that user is in long-term recovery.
- 12% of those in recovery said they had been reunited with their children as the result of their stable recovery.
Studies have shown how family therapy can boost long-term recovery. This more recent data into how recovery strengthens family relationships suggests that the investment in a loved one’s recovery can have exponential pay-offs.
See also the following related articles in our Learning Center: