Recovery Rate for Opioid Use Disorder: Statistics, Contributing Factors & More

April 18, 2022

Table of Contents

Given that OUDs are chronic, what does recovery rate mean? When a patient states they are “in recovery”, it can mean different things to different people. It may mean that the patients has been entirely abstinence from substances for a given period of time. It may simply mean that the patient is attempting to use less or none of the substance but may still be using occasionally. Thus, “in recovery” has a wide range of meanings and means different things to different individuals, making it hard to gather standardized data about “rates of recovery”. In general, researchers estimate about 30% of people with OUDs will successfully “reach recovery” after treatment.[1] But an individual may define successful recovery differently. 

Opioid Recovery Statistics You Should Know 

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic, relapsing condition. Just as someone with diabetes must spend part of every day managing blood sugar levels, dietary choices, and exercise, patients with OUD must devote time daily to your therapy, whether it is medication, behavioral treatment, or both.  Here are four facts you should know about recovery in OUD:

OUDs are very common.

In 2019, about 10 million people abused opioids in the United States.[2] 

Opioid use disorders can develop quickly.

Opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone change brain chemistry. While the doses might wear off quickly, physical addiction can occur sometimes as quickly as after a single use.

The amount of time for recovery varies highly depending on the individual.

You may need many years to stop relapsing and achieve a stable recovery. One study suggests an average years in recovery is somewhere around eight years.[8] Others need less or more.

MAT is becoming more common.

Years ago, people with OUDs were almost always pushed into talk therapy or support group settings (like Alcoholics Anonymous) to address their addictions. This was largely because medications were unstudied and largely unavailable. Now, however, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is well studied and for the most part, widely available. About 1.27 million people in the United States are getting MAT therapy for an OUD [2] 

MAT is highly successful.

There is ample evidence that MAT is highly effective at helping patients discontinue problematic opioid use.[3]

MAT is underutilized.

Even though MAT is more available than ever before, there are still a lot of barriers to accessing MAT for patients with OUD. It is estimated that only about one in four people with OUDs get specialty care including mediations, access to behavioral health, or both.[7] 

Recovery rates with MAT aren't always well-tracked.

If you have an opioid use disorder, you probably want to know exactly what to do to be a success statistic, which includes knowing just how successful MAT is for patients trying to achieve recovery. Researchers attempt to study the rates of successful recovery with MAT, but this can be hard to do for a number of reasons: 

First, recovery can be defined in a number of different ways. Some patients are “in recovery” and are not using MAT and thus are not included in the counts of patients on MAT that are abstinent from use. Conversely, some patients may have a prescription for MAT but are still using opioids and are therefore “not in recovery”. Thus, we must rely on estimates. 

Researchers estimate that about 10% of all Americans are in recovery from some form of substance use disorder.[4] But until states dig deeper, we may not have precise data on true OUD recovery rates. 

MAT

Combining medications and traditional therapies allows you to address your OUD from multiple angles. When your cravings are easier to cope with, you can really focus on your therapy. 

Unfortunately, less than half of private treatment programs offer MAT, and only about a third of the people in these programs get MAT.[5] If you're searching for care, ask about MAT and if it's right for you. 

Length of treatment

OUD treatment  can be very short term (a few weeks) or lifelong, depending on the needs and preferences of the individual. Some people get treatment in programs that last just days. They emerge sober and do not feel they need additional medications. Others may leave treatment and feel that they will always want the security of having medication to prevent cravings and may choose to stay on MAT lifelong. In general, long treatment stays (12 months or more) are associated with higher rates of successful recovery.[6] Likewise, staying on MAT for longer periods of time, even indefinitely, is associated with higher rates of sustained recovery.

Recovery Is Possible

Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. You can achieve a better, brighter future. You just need the right support.

Look for programs that encourage you as a person and follow best practices. With the right care, you can achieve the life you imagine for yourself. A better tomorrow is possible, particularly with MAT. Ask your doctor about MAT if you are interested in recovery.

Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

Medically Reviewed By

Is Suboxone treatment a fit for you?

Contact us directly to speak with a specialist.

Citations

  1. 1. Long-Term Course of Opioid Addiction. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. https://journals.lww.com/hrpjournal/Abstract/2015/03000/Long_Term_Course_of_Opioid_Addiction.3.aspx. March/April 2015. Accessed April 2022.
  2. Opioid Crisis Statistics. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/opioid-crisis-statistics/index.html. February 2021. Accessed April 2022. 
  3. Opioid Addiction. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/condition/opioid-addiction/. May 2021. Accessed April 2022. 
  4. It's Time to Measure Addiction Recovery Rates, Not Just Addiction Rates. Stat. https://www.statnews.com/2018/08/30/measure-addiction-recovery-rates/. August 2018. Accessed April 2022. 
  5. Medications to Treat Opioid Use Disorder Research Report. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/overview. December 2021. Accessed April 2022. 
  6. Recovery From Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) After Monthly Long-Acting Buprenorphine Treatment: 12-Month Longitudinal Outcomes From Recover, an Observational Study. Journal of Addiction Medicine. https://journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/fulltext/2020/10000/recovery_from_opioid_use_disorder__oud__after.27.aspx September/October 2020. Accessed April 2022. 
  7. Opioid Use Disorder. American Psychiatric Association. https://journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/fulltext/2020/10000/recovery_from_opioid_use_disorder__oud__after.27.aspx. November 2018. Accessed April 2022. 
  8. 8. There is Life After Addiction. Most People Recover. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2022/01/15/1071282194/addiction-substance-recovery-treatment. January 2022. Accessed April 2022.

Imagine what’s possible on the other side of opioid use disorder.

Our science-backed approach boasts 95% of patients reporting no withdrawal symptoms at 7 days. We can help you achieve easier days and a happier future.

Get Startedor book an enrollment call