What is Recovery?

Sun shining through the canopy of a tree

What is recovery as it relates to opioid use disorder?

SAMHSA Definition: “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Read more about SAMSHA'S definition of recovery (PDF).

Read more about other definitions of recovery

What are some of the essential or evidence-based approaches to recovery?

There are many pathways of recovery, including, but not limited to, 12-Step mutual aid groups, secular and non-secular mutual aid groups, mindfulness and meditation, faith-based organizations, assistance through medication, or a combination of these. 

Best practices should address these four areas: (more info found here from SAMHSA)

  • Health—overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms and making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.
  • Home—having a stable and safe place to live.
  • Purpose—conducting meaningful daily activities and having the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.
  • Community—having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

Additional Information

See the Community Response Checklist for examples of recovery programs and services.

See Background Materials on recovery.


Recovery-oriented systems of care (ROSC)

A coordinated network of community-based services and supports that is person-centered and embraces a holistic chronic care management model for severe substance use disorders, which includes longer-term, outpatient care; recovery housing; and recovery coaching and management checkups.

More on ROSC from its pioneer, William White (PDF)

More on ROSC from SAMHSA (PDF)

Recovery support services (RSS)

These services refer to the collection of community services that can provide emotional and practical support for continued remission. Components include mutual aid groups (e.g., 12-step groups), recovery coaching, recovery housing, recovery management (checkups and telephone case monitoring), recovery community centers, and recovery-based education (high schools and colleges).

More on RSS from SAMHSA (PDF)

Recovery Community Organization (RCO)

RCOs are a relatively new innovation that combine and centralize RSS and recognize all of the pathways of recovery. These organizations afford smooth transitions in the continuum of care and strengthen positive social supports for a person either seeking or in recovery. Some RCOs also have the roles of public education and policy advocacy, thereby decreasing stigma in the community.

More on RCO (PDF)

Recovery Coaching

There is emerging, promising evidence that recovery coaching is improving outcomes for people with OUD/SUD. A recovery coach offers non-clinical services to a client and whose overarching role is to guide and support a person in recovery from addiction. The coach can serve in many different roles and usually has lived experience themselves.

More on Recovery Coach for OUD (PDF)