If you haven’t heard of Natural Recovery, it is the “phenomenon” where substance abusers stop abusing substances without having received any sort of treatment or 12 step group attendance. Natural Recovery is also known as Self Change, Self Recovery, Spontaneous Remission, Auto-Remission, and other names.
There is a lot of peer reviewed research on natural recovery from alcohol abuse, but it’s often harder to find the research on natural recovery from illicit drug use, which is why I’m happy that my friends at SJRH turned me on to this compilation of research. I’ve seen a few of these studies before, but many I haven’t.
Although there are a few methodological problems in here, the main thrust of these studies is that when we actually use a control group of heroin abusers who haven’t been to treatment (or didn’t stay long enough to be classified as treated) we usually end up seeing that the rate of recovery for both treated and untreated heroin abusers is essentially identical. In some cases, the data suggests that your chances of recovery are better if you never receive treatment.
Anyways, this research is very significant because it addresses what is known as the most addictive drug – heroin. And it shows that people stop using it without medical help. And that calls into question the common knowledge that “you can’t quit on your own” or “you can’t quit without professional help”. Historically, people have, and they still do today. We just don’t hear about it that much because they don’t present themselves to medical authorities, and they often keep their stories of natural recovery private because of the stigma associated with the “incurable disease of addiction”.
Citation: NATURAL RECOVERY FROM HEROIN ADDICTION: A REVIEW OF THE INCIDENCE LITERATURE by Dan Waldorf & Patrick Biernacki