Quitting Drugs: Quantitative and Qualitative Features
According to the idea that addiction is a chronic relapsing disease, remission is at most a temporary state. Either addicts never stop using drugs, or if they do stop, remission is short lived. However, research on remission reveals a more complex picture. In national epidemiological surveys that recruited representative drug users, remission rates varied widely and were markedly different for legal and illegal drugs and for different racial/ethnic groups. For instance, the half-life for cocaine dependence was four years, but for alcohol dependence it was 16 years, and although most dependent cocaine users remitted before age 30, about 5% remained heavy cocaine users well into their forties. Although varied, the remission results were orderly. An exponential growth curve closely approximated the cumulative frequency of remitting for different drugs and different ethnic/racial groups. Thus, each year a constant proportion of those still addicted remitted, independent of the number of years since the onset of dependence. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology Volume 9 is March 26, 2013. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.