Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada

Canadian Centre on Substance AbuseA 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.