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What Percentage of Alcoholics Recover?

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According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 14.1 million American adults had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019. That’s around 5.6% of all American adults. This doesn’t include American adults who use alcohol heavily and binge drink. 

Some individuals suffering from AUD have a moment of clarity. It may have them wonder, does AA work? What percentage of alcoholics recover? Is it worth it to dedicate serious time to recovery? New Directions for Women understands that recovery can be a difficult process. Often, a person with AUD has more questions than answers when they start. 

We’re here to confirm that AUD is completely treatable. Plus, we have alcoholism recovery statistics on our side to back that up. Read on to find out how evidence-based programs and strong support can help people with AUD get their life back on track. 

Alcoholism Recovery Statistics and Information 

NIAAA writes that AUD, also known as alcoholism, “is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” In simpler terms, it’s when alcohol takes over a person’s life. At that point, they’re unable to control their alcohol use which can permanently ruin their health. 

There are two types of alcoholism: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Within these two types, there are three subclasses: mild, moderate, and severe. A couple of drinks a day as a woman may seem innocuous. Actually, it makes them an alcoholic. Despite how easily drinking can get out of hand, alcoholism recovery statistics prove sobriety is possible. 

7 Alcoholism Recovery Statistics To Know in 2021

  1. About 36% of people suffering from alcoholism recover after one year in one study. 
  2. Approximately 18% of recovering alcoholics achieved low-risk drinking after a year. 
  3. About 18% of recovering alcoholics were able to abstain from drinking completely one year later. 
  4. Recovery rates are less than 36% for people with a severe or lifetime alcohol dependence. 
  5. Around 60% of individuals who are sober for two years after AUD remain that way. 
  6. The majority of former alcoholics who stay sober for five years and over usually stay that way. 
  7. About 12% of Native Americans suffer from a drinking problem. 

What Percentage of Alcoholics Recover? 

As said before, research shows that more than one-third of alcoholics recover within the first year. So, when it comes to what percentage of alcoholics recover, it’s 36%. This percentage increases as recovering alcoholics maintain their sobriety or a low level of drinking.

A low level of drinking is different for men and women. Women should strive to drink no more than three drinks on any given day. For men, it’s four. Women should limit themselves to seven drinks per week. In comparison, men should drink no more than fourteen drinks in a week. If any person, regardless of gender, finds themselves drinking every day it could be a problem. 

Relapse After Recovery 

The fact is that recovering from an addiction to alcohol isn’t easy. These statistics are pulled from research where former alcoholics/recovering alcoholics underwent treatment. Without treatment, it’s much easier to relapse. NIAAA states that about 90% of alcoholics relapse at least once after addiction treatment over the course of four years. Plus, aftercare programs help keep patients sober when followed through for at least three months. 

what percentage of alcoholics recover

The facts are similar across the board for other addictive substances, like nicotine and heroin. Relapse is a common part of recovery in the alcoholism cycle. Several studies theorize that both internal and external stimuli lead to this. That doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work, it just means it needs to be adjusted.  

Does AA Work? 

Studies show that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a support group that helps people with drinking problems, does work for many participants. The Scientific American writes that a study was conducted with 900 people suffering from alcoholism. They, like other alcoholics, questioned whether AA works. Despite this, they entered the study that would change most of their lives. 

Before joining the group, about 20% of them had alcohol-free days. After AA, the alcoholism recovery statistics rose to 80%. In other words, the large majority of members didn’t drink for 80% of a year after their treatment ended. Though, this publication notes that the study didn’t compare the AA group to those attempting to recover without treatment. This could be a limitation. 

Despite this, the group is available almost everywhere in the United States. Unlike other groups, AA makes sure to accept people regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, gender, or political affiliation. AA has been around since before the 1940s and has helped many women achieve sobriety. Good support and the right mentality is a crucial part of recovery. AA certainly provides that to those who decide to join the fellowship. 

The History of AA 

AA is a faith-based program that incorporates religion of all kinds into its framework. It started through the friendship between a physician (Bob Smith, aka Dr. Bob) and a businessman (Bill Wilson, aka Bill W). At the time, most people might have dismissed their alcohol dependence. However, both of them struggled with maintaining a normal life and their relationship with alcohol. 

Bill W was able to find the answer to, “Does AA work?” before it was even a real program. His devotion to his Christain faith pulled him out of AUD. Dr. Bob was so impressed by Bill W’s devotion to God and how it helped him overcome one of the largest obstacles in his life. Thus, he decided to follow the same steps his friend took to recovery. In the process, they created The Big Book. This book that is still used today incorporates the philosophy of AA as well as the famous 12 steps this fellowship uses to overcome addiction. 

The Twelve-Step Method  

  1. Admitting to being an alcoholic
  2. The belief that a greater power can help them overcome alcoholism 
  3. Deciding to dedicate their lives to God 
  4. Making a comprehensive judgment of their life up until that point
  5. Being accountable in front of the eyes of God 
  6. Trusting God to remove their character flaws that stem from alcoholism 
  7. Humbling asking God to remove these flaws 
  8. Make a list of all the people they have harmed because of alcoholism 
  9. Make an effort to sincerely apologize to those they have heart except if it would hurt anyone in the process 
  10. Continuing the effort to be accountable for actions 
  11. Constantly seek improvement through belief in God, meditation, and prayer 
  12. Have a spiritual awakening, promise to never regress into alcoholism,  and preach the benefits of AA to those who need it

Alternatives to AA 

The answer isn’t always yes to, “Does AA work?” At New Directions for Women, we offer individualized treatment per patient because we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all plan. We offer 12-step programs along with other forms of treatment that may better suit individuals recovering from AUD. It’s worth mentioning that any of these programs can complement an AA program. 


Native Americans as a whole struggle the most with AUD. For that reason, we want to offer people with this rich background a program that speaks to them. A Wellbriety program incorporates American Indian culture and spirituality into treatment. As of 2019, our facility is the only one certified to offer this type of program in Orange County, CA.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) 

EMDR is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, that uses external stimuli to aid recovery. The theory behind this therapy is that bilateral stimulation, like hand tapping, can improve recovery time. The subconscious mind will release trauma for an individual as they talk with a therapist and the methods they provide to expedite trauma recovery. 

Exercise Therapy 

what percentage of alcoholics recoverExercise releases “feel-good” chemicals in the body. It’s the brain’s way of letting the body know that exercise is a positive behavior. Hence, exercise can mimic the same effect of alcohol to some extent. When a person drinks alcohol, it releases endorphins. Exercise does the same thing, just to a lesser extent. It’s a good bridge between addiction and healthy coping mechanisms.  

Who Does AA Work For? 

Since AA is a faith-based program, it would work better for those who have a devotion to religion. People, like atheists, may not benefit from this program. The core of AA is using a higher power to overcome AUD. 

However, that doesn’t mean that people who don’t believe in God can’t benefit from it. Much of the 12-step program involves taking accountability for actions and making amends. That’s a crucial step in any program that deals with AUD recovery. 

Does AA Work After Relapse?

The Scientific American wrote that in the aforementioned study, 40% of people suffering from AUD dropped out of the program. Yet, many of them returned. While The Big Book doesn’t help everyone, many members of AA programs find it helps them. 

It’s more than the steps that bring them back after relapse. It’s the fellowship. Being among peers that truly support each other and struggle together helps people with AUD overcome it. Being a part of AA means that they’re not alone and don’t need to face alcoholism recovery on their own. 

New Directions for Women Helps With Alcohol Addiction in Southern California 

Does AA work? The answer is typically yes. New Directions for Women helps patients join the positive side of alcoholism recovery statistics. It’s possible with the right program, whatever that may be. We’re here to help you figure out what the right program might mean for you. Contact us now to find a treatment that is best for you. 


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