NIAAA Scientists Unveil New Definition of Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder

Scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have released a new definition of recovery from alcohol use disorder (AUD) that addresses limitations associated with prior AUD recovery definitions and lays the groundwork for future recovery-related research. In a recent review article, Brett Hagman, Ph.D., Dan Falk, Ph.D., Raye Litten, Ph.D., and NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D., explain that:

Recovery is a process through which an individual pursues both remission from AUD and cessation from heavy drinking. Recovery can also be considered an outcome such that an individual may be considered ‘recovered’ if both remission from AUD and cessation from heavy drinking are achieved and maintained over time. For those experiencing alcohol-related functional impairment and other adverse consequences, recovery is often marked by the fulfillment of basic needs, enhancements in social support and spirituality, and improvements in physical and mental health, quality of life, and other dimensions of well-being. Continued improvement in these domains may, in turn, promote sustained recovery.

With input from key recovery stakeholders, such as researchers, clinicians, and recovery specialists, NIAAA developed this definition to provide a framework for advancing recovery research and the treatment of AUD. This definition extends prior ones by incorporating key, empirically supported alcohol-related processes, such as remission from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (commonly known as DSM-5) AUD and cessation from heavy drinking. And by not requiring abstinence for a successful outcome, the new definition recognizes that recovery is an ongoing process.

The new definition of recovery will allow for more consistency across AUD research. NIAAA expects to refine the definition as research continues to improve the understanding of how well-being and biopsychosocial functioning, remission from AUD, and cessation from heavy drinking affect recovery.

Hagman, B.; Falk, D.; Litten, R.; and Koob, G.F. Defining recovery from alcohol use disorder: Development of an NIAAA research definition. American Journal of Psychiatry. In press. PMID: 35410494



This article first appeared in NIAAA Spectrum.

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