One of the most exciting facts about addiction and our ability to move past it goes unreported – more than 90% of those with a drug or alcohol problem will get over their problem when you factor in age. In other words, as we grow older, it is normal to let go of heavy substance use. The following excerpt comes from The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap and it further explains this remarkable ability we all possess to change and grow as individuals:

“A popular statistic thrown around by the recovery society and treatment advocates says that “only 1 in 10 addicts get the treatment they need.” Depending on the data you look at, this is approximately accurate numbers wise – only 10-20% of Americans who have ever fit the diagnosis of addiction get formal help at some point in their lives (in the form of treatment, support group attendance, or a combination of both.) The rest never get any formal help. The question you should be asking is what happens to the 80-90% that doesn’t get treatment? Are those people dying? After all, recovery ideology says you can’t quit an addiction without treatment.

In fact, those people aren’t dying. They’re getting over their problems at a rate that equals and often surpasses success rates for those who receive treatment. So the claim that treatment is needed is dreadfully wrong. Nobody needs treatment for addiction. The folks who say this have a biased view. They work in treatment, they only see people who go to them for treatment, and then they teach those people that they’ll die if they don’t stay involved in treatment and support groups. Most treatment advocates are only privy to research done on those who’ve undergone intense indoctrination in treatment; they are generally unaware of what happens in the lives of those who don’t sign on to recovery ideology. They don’t know what becomes of the other 80-90% who never gets formal help. Luckily though, this information is available.

The US government has carried out several epidemiological studies that surveyed tens of thousands of people to find out about their mental health and substance use histories. Every such study that’s been done has found that a majority of people, treated or not, eventually resolve their substance use problems. The following chart shows 3 such studies. (Heyman, 2013)

As you can see, between the 3 studies shown here, approximately 80% of people who were ever “addicted to drugs” were not currently “addicted.” That is, they resolved their drug use problems. Collectively, those studies surveyed over 60,000 people in the general population. Data like this makes mincemeat of the biased handfuls of subjects most addiction studies pull from treatment programs only.

The last study on that chart, NESARC, had the largest survey group (43,000 people), and offered some of the most detailed information available. It offered data that compared treated alcoholics to untreated alcohodrug treatment successlics. Take a look at the results in the chart.

As you can see, the likelihood of ending alcohol dependence is nearly equal for both treated and untreated alcoholics (slightly higher if you don’t get treatment). All of them met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol addiction, and yet it made almost no difference whether they were treated or not, most eventually resolved their problems.

What would you say if you took a group of people with a disease, gave some of them medical treatment, and gave the others no treatment, yet both groups recovered equally? You’d have to conclude that both groups resolved their problems by their own power. You’d conclude that the treatment doesn’t really work. And if it doesn’t work, then you certainly wouldn’t say that it’s “needed.”

Your conclusions would be correct. And these are the correct conclusions about addiction treatment. Nobody needs it, and it’s important for you to realize that it doesn’t really “work” for anyone (in the sense of causing them to stop or reduce their drinking.) There are people who will attribute their “recovery” to addiction treatment, because it is part of their history and so they assume they needed it and that it helped them. They are as wrong as someone who took a placebo, got over a medical problem by processes of their own immune system, and then credited the placebo for their recovery. They would’ve gotten over their problem without the treatment.

addiction recovery rate


Now remember what the treatment advocates are saying. In no uncertain terms, they say that “addicts” can’t control themselves, and can’t stop using substances without treatment. A mountain of evidence says this is wrong. The studies above, as well as yearly surveys, show that over time, people naturally quit or reduce their substance use to non-problematic levels on their own. Most “addictions” start when people are in their early 20s, and more than half of them resolve by 30 years old. Problematic substance use rapidly declines with age. When researchers crunched these numbers in the NESARC data, figuring in the trends on age, they found that more than 9 out of 10 will eventually resolve their substance use problems – treated or not. More precisely, the probability that a problematic substance user will resolve their problem for various substances is: (Heyman, 2013)

  1. Alcohol – 90.6%
  2. Marijuana – 97.2%
  3. Cocaine – 99.2%


Although they didn’t offer a probability rate for heroin, we have no reason to believe it should be any different. 96% of heroin addicts were currently resolved in the NESARC data. This is similar to previous data on heroin use. For example, a study on Vietnam vets diagnosed as heroin dependent found that within the first 3 years about 88% quit without relapse, and in a 24 year long follow up, 96% had eventually resolved their problems. You should also know that only 2% of those vets received treatment! (Robins, 1993)”

People get over their addictions. This is a fact. They do not need to be “treated” for a disease that does not exist. They need the facts, and then they can make their own determination whether they want a change in their behavior and their habits. The Freedom Model provides the facts so an educated and informed decision can be made. Are you ready for a change? If so, take some time to read The Freedom Model and learn how to move on from both addiction and it’s stable mate, recovery, and learn to be truly free.