Newswise — Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have conducted a recent study, titled "Coming of Age in Recovery: Examining the Prevalence and Correlates of Substance Use Recovery Status Among Adolescents and Emerging Adults." Published on December 19, 2023, in PLOS ONE, this gresearch not only estimates the prevalence of adolescents identifying as being in recovery but also offers crucial perspectives on the landscape of substance use recovery among this demographic. The study sheds light on the behavioral health needs within this population, providing essential insights for planning and addressing the challenges faced by youth with current and remitted substance use disorders.

Key Findings:

Prevalence Estimates:

   - Dual Status (DS): 1.4% reported dual status (recovery and problem resolution)

   - Problem Resolution Only (PRO): 2.5%

   - Recovery Only (RO): 2.9%

Comparison with Control Groups:

   - All three recovery groups (DS, PRO, RO) had significantly lower odds of prescription drug use.

   - The PRO group had lower odds of past-month cannabis use.

   - No significant differences for alcohol outcomes.


   - Prevalence estimates of youth in recovery are slightly lower than those of adults.

   - Adolescents in recovery and those resolving problems have behavioral health needs, urging the need to define recovery for this demographic.


   - Globally, alcohol and drug use among adolescents contribute significantly to disability adjusted life years.

   - Lack of standardized definitions and reluctance to use the term "recovery" with adolescents hindered previous research.

Study Methodology:

   - Data collected through the Illinois Youth Survey, covering high school students in 9th through 12th grades.

   - Propensity score matching used to address confounding variables.

Demographic Characteristics:   

- The study encompassed 60,891 students in 9th through 12th grades.

   - Recovery and problem resolution groups showed variations in demographic characteristics.

Behavioral Health Outcomes:

   - Recovery and problem resolution groups had elevated substance use and behavioral health needs compared to control groups.

   - Adolescents in these groups exhibited multiple behavioral health comorbidities.

Recommendations for Future Research:

   - Replicate prevalence estimates using representative sampling.

   - Conduct cognitive interviewing to understand youth conceptualizations of recovery.

   - Explore non-abstinent recovery among adolescents and its impact on health outcomes.

Lead researcher, Douglas C. Smith, emphasized the importance of understanding adolescent recovery, stating, "These findings have large implications for medical professionals designing recovery supports for AEA. It suggests a pressing need for more research on community-dwelling youth in recovery to uncover the best approaches for engaging them in the course of experiencing a substance use disorder."

The study marks a significant step toward addressing the unique challenges of adolescent substance use recovery and paves the way for future research and interventions.

For more information, please refer to the full study published in PLOS ONE on December 19, 2023, available at

About the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a leading research institution committed to advancing knowledge and fostering innovation. The School of Social Work plays a vital role in addressing societal challenges through research and education.

Journal Link: PLOS ONE

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