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We Must Define Recovery

At a recent SECAD conference, I had the honor of sitting on a panel with some of the finest minds in the addiction field. We were there to discuss the topic "Is Buprenorphine Maintenance Recovery?" The panel seemed to agree that treatment was distinct from recovery, treatment is a vehicle for recovery, and that treatment is an action directed by professionals.

We disagreed as to what recovery is. It struck me as odd that after 50 years of having a treatment industry, we cannot define the core concept that we hope to instill in our patients. Until recently, no one has taken on this difficult task. But the time appears to be upon us. In September 2005, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment hosted the National Summit on Recovery. The definition of recovery was one of the many tasks at hand. That consensus report from the conference stated: "Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.[1]" One year later across the U.S., the Betty Ford Institute gathered together research and industry experts to better define recovery. A consensus statement from that group stated: "Recovery is a voluntarily maintained lifestyle comprised of sobriety, personal health and citizenship.[2]" The consensus panel report goes on to state: "Sobriety refers to abstinence from alcohol and all other nonprescribed drugs" Bill White authored a conceptual article in the same issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment dedicated to this conference; in it he discusses the tricky issue of abstinence and recovery. He suggests a term "moderated recovery" for individuals who may not have the severest form of alcohol and drug abuse and who are able to curtail their use to the point of an improved overall life.[3]

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