New Report by Recovery Experts Advocates Expanding Research to Help People With Substance Use Disorder

Fors Marsh Group (FMG) announced today the completion of phase one of its multiphase partnership with Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation (GRI) with a new report and set of recommendations that serve as a road map for public and private sector organizations to expand and prioritize research around recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), also known as drug and alcohol dependence.

The joint report, Virtual Summit: Assessing Progress and Setting Priorities in Recovery Research on Substance Use Disorder (download PDF) summarizes the proceedings from the 2020 Virtual Summit: Assessing Progress and Setting Priorities in Recovery Research, hosted by FMG and GRI that brought together over 200 leaders from federal, state, philanthropic, and recovery advocacy organizations to examine challenges and opportunities in the field of addiction recovery. The report also outlines five themes to help guide national priorities in the field of recovery research.

The summit was structured to build on the 2018 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Recovery Research and Evaluation Technical Expert Panel Summary Report, which assessed the current state of recovery support services in addressing SUD in the United States.

The summit report’s recommendations were distilled in consultation with the summit’s co-chairs:

  • Andrea Barthwell, former president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and GRI board member
  • John Kelly, Director of the Recovery Research Institute, Center for Addiction Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and
  • Andrew Finch, Peabody College of Education and Human Development and Vanderbilt University.

The summit yielded five key themes:

  1. Define Recovery in SUD and Expand Recovery Research: The field of SUD recovery research has expanded beyond abstinence as a sufficient avenue for measuring recovery. To make further progress in the field, consistent measures must expand to include quality of life, self-efficacy, and social functioning. This definition must also encompass various stages of the recovery process and acknowledge the many paths people take to sustain recovery.
  2. Explore Persistent Inequities Through Recovery Research: Inequities in access to recovery support services stem from and contribute to larger socioeconomic and health disparities. These inequities in access to care and outcomes are particularly prevalent in many communities, including those with people of color, lower-income populations, people in rural areas, and LGBTQIA+ people. Therefore, policymakers need evidence-based research that addresses persistent barriers to recovery—particularly SUD-related stigma and discrimination—and racial, gender, socioeconomic, and geographic inequities.
  3. Prioritize the Investigation of Adolescent and Emerging Adult SUD Recovery: Policymakers and researchers need a better understanding of recovery and remission among adolescents given that SUD most often begins during this time. In addition, a better understanding of adolescents’ unique needs and experiences with SUD can advance earlier intervention and sustained recovery.
  4. Evaluate the Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on SUD Recovery: Alcohol use and fatal overdoses have increased rapidly during the pandemic. An estimated 90,237 Americans died of overdose during the 12 months during the 12 months between September 2019 and September 2020. In addition to potentially driving more substance use, the pandemic has likely resulted in more use of substances in isolation, which reduces calls to emergency services by peers or bystanders. As a result, policymakers and researchers need to identify more innovative approaches for continuing service delivery, mutual aid, and other needed social support for people who may be isolated.
  5. Establish SUD Recovery as a Formal Research Domain: Recovery research needs to establish its domain with a multidisciplinary approach, encompassing the neurobiology of addiction and recovery, the developmental and psychosocial dimensions, the role of culture and stigma, and the relative effectiveness of various models for the organization and financing of services.

“The themes outlined in this report include actionable guidance based on input from our nation’s foremost experts in the field of addiction recovery,” said FMG CEO Ben Garthwaite.  “We recognize there are more steps ahead, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that this guidance doesn’t end up on a shelf, but rather prioritized into policy to help lift the 23 million Americans living in recovery from SUD.”

Dr. Barthwell said, “We have made progress bringing together the academic, public health, philanthropic, and recovery communities to integrate policy, science, and lived experience of acute SUD. But without more research across population bases and a stronger infrastructure for community-based delivery of support services, we will be at a disadvantage.”

“Adolescents respond differently than adults who seek long-term recovery. We need to learn more about what is unique in the journey of recovery for young people who are still getting their education, developing their social networks, and living in families where there may be family members in active SUD,” said Dr. Andrew Finch.

Dr. Kelly added, “Due to the chronic nature of SUD, the risk of recurrence of symptoms remains elevated even after long periods without any symptoms. Therefore, continuing care and support for individuals in recovery remains essential for up to 5 years following active SUD—not just days or months.”

About FMG

FMG is a company that uses business as a force for good, and as a B Corporation, the company governs from a set of values and policies that compound the positive impact for its employees, clients, and partners. Since 2002, FMG has focused on applying science and strategy to create positive behavior change in people and program and policy improvements in large organizations and government. The company is committed to working with the public and private sectors to build a body of research in SUD that will result in a range of science-based services that are accessible and will increase the number of people who can sustain their recovery.

About GRI

GRI focuses on building a philanthropic pool that supports organizations and provides services to people in early recovery from SUD. By partnering with public, private, and pop culture leaders, GRI works to erase the stigma of SUD and to share best practices that are scientifically proven to help keep people from relapsing. For more information, visit the Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation.

[1] Ahmad, F., Rossen, L., & Stutton, P. (2021, June 16). Products – Vital Statistics Rapid Release – Provisional Drug Overdose Data. National Center for Health Statistics; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.