Predicting long-term stable recovery from heroin addiction: findings from a 33-year follow-up study

J Addict Dis. 2007;26(1):51-60. doi: 10.1300/J069v26n01_07.


Heroin addiction is increasingly being recognized as a chronic relapsing condition, but relatively little is known about long-term recovery processes among addicts who attain and maintain long periods of abstinence. This study is to identify predictors of long-term stable recovery from heroin addiction based on 242 heroin addicts that have been followed for more than 30 years. Results showed that recovery and non-recovery groups did not differ in deviant behaviors and family/school problems in their earlier lives. Both groups tried formal treatment and self-directed recovery ("self-treatment"), often many times. While the non-recovered addicts were significantly more likely to use substances in coping with stressful conditions, to have spouses who also abused drugs, and to lack non-drug-using social support, stable recovery ten years later was predicted only by ethnicity, self-efficacy, and psychological distress. These findings suggest that in addition to early intervention to curtail heroin addiction, increasing self-efficacy and addressing psychological problems are likely to enhance the odds of maintaining long-term stable recovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Convalescence*
  • Demography
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / ethnology
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Family / psychology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heroin Dependence / diagnosis
  • Heroin Dependence / ethnology
  • Heroin Dependence / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Self Efficacy
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome