Celebrating Recovery Research Progress


A new addiction recovery advocacy movement emerged at the dawn of the twenty-first century. One of its central goals—the promotion of recovery research—required the deployment of multiple strategies. Newly rising recovery community organizations:

  • Promoted addiction recovery as a legitimate and critically needed area of scientific investigation,
  • Called for the funding of recovery research by governmental agencies, private foundations, and private philanthropists,
  • Encouraged addiction research organizations to extend their studies of addiction and addiction treatment to the study of addiction recovery,
  • Supported the creation of new organizations whose primary mission was research on addiction recovery,
  • Supported a new generation of research scientists who wished to specialize in the study of addiction recovery,
  • Assisted research scientists and research organizations in the conduct of recovery-focused research studies (e.g., participation in advisory panels, subject recruitment—including volunteering as research subjects, guidance on data interpretations and study implications), and
  • Disseminated recovery research findings and their actionable implications to communities of recovery, helping professionals, the public, and policymakers.

These were among the actions of those of us attending the 2001 Recovery Summit who envisioned an “addictions field” refocused on long-term personal and family recovery.  At that time, libraries were filled with what was known about drugs, addiction-related pathologies, and addiction treatment, but only a few library shelves would have held what was then known about the prevalence, pathways, processes, stages, and styles of long-term addiction recovery. Since then, research scientists have made substantial progress in recovery research.

Recovery is now competing as an organizing paradigm within the alcohol and drug problems policy and practice arenas. NIAAA, NIDA, and CSAT have expanded funding for recovery-focused research and evaluation studies. An increasing number of existing and new organizations (e.g., Recovery Research Institute) that are specializing in recovery-focused research. A growing legion of research scientists are pioneering studies of addiction recovery (See Recovery Research Hall of Fame). These scientists are illuminating answers to some of the most critical questions related to the resolution of severe alcohol and other drug problems.

Here is personal confirmation of such progress. I began maintaining a bibliography of recovery research in the early 2000s. The early versions of that bibliography were only a few dozen pages listing mostly observational studies. Today, that bibliography contains more than 425 pages of recovery-related research citations, including recovery studies of unprecedented methodological rigor. I have just posted the 2022 Recovery Research Bibliography. It catalogues recovery research across a spectrum of topical areas. I hope this will be a valuable resource for research scientists, students, and other people wishing to learn more about the science of addiction recovery. 

In the early 2000s, a vanguard of recovery advocates began calling for a comprehensive recovery research agenda. The progress being made toward that goal is worthy of celebration. Included within that celebration should be acknowledgement of the innumerable people in recovery who since initiating recovery have returned to school and pursued advanced education. The number of people in recovery enrolled in PhD programs has exploded in recent years, and many of these individuals plan to pursue recovery-focused research as part of their professional aspirations. A day is coming when the full integration of scientific, clinical, and experiential knowledge of recovery will dramatically expand pathways of hope and healing for people seeking escape from alcohol and other drug problems. The dawn of that day, which I did not expect to see in my lifetime, is arriving as you read this.