Assessing recovery and functioning in former problem drinkers at different stages of their recovery journeys

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2011 Jan;30(1):12-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00190.x.


Introduction and aims: Many studies which assess functioning in recovering problem drinkers are limited to early recovery within inpatient or detoxification settings, or focus on relapse rates and treatment outcomes. This study assesses how functioning varies according to recovery stage and abstinence duration.

Design and methods: Fifty-three recovering problem drinkers participated from mutual aid groups or snowball recruitment. Cross-sectional interviewer-administered structured questionnaires assessed quality of life (QoL), self-esteem, self-efficacy, psychological and physical health. Participants could also self-complete the questionnaire.

Results: Those in 'stable recovery' (5 or more years into recovery, n = 18) reported higher ratings of: three aspects of QoL--social relationships, psychological health, environment, as well as self-esteem (P < 0.05 for all variables) than those in 'early' (up to 5 years into recovery, n = 35). Depression was lower in 'stable recovery' (P = 0.027). Those in 'stable recovery' were more likely to live in their own home without professional support (P = 0.010) and have partners who had never been problem drinkers (P = 0.024). Overall, the continuous scores of many functioning variables correlated with abstinence duration indicating a continuous gain in functioning.

Discussion and conclusions: Although limited by sampling considerations, this paper shows a gradual growth in functioning over a prolonged recovery process, and provides positive findings that those in recovery may expect to experience improvements in many areas of life as abstinence duration increases. For two aspects of QoL--environment and social relationships--functioning reaches a level above population norms offering hope of moving to a functioning level beyond the pre-morbid state.[Hibbert LJ, Best DW. Assessing recovery and functioning in former problem drinkers at different stages of their recovery journeys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperance*
  • Time Factors