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Resilience & Recovery from Substance Abuse

Resilience is the ability to bear up against and bounce back quickly from tough or difficult situations.

Babies, children and teens are generally more resilient than their parents realize.

And although recovery from substance use/misuse hinges on the ability to stay:

  • Focused
  • Motivated
  • Patient
  • Resilient

Younger, more resilient, more impatient substance users/misusers innately tend to be poorly focused and motivated regarding recovery treatment programs because many:

  1. Don’t believe they have a problem
  2. Believe some their peers are much worse regarding drug use/misuse
  3. Believe if it gets worse they’ll stop
  4. Believe recovery is for losers

Of course, denial and minimization exists at any age and unfortunately the older they are often the deeper their denial can be, while their trend towards greater experience and resilience still has difficulty plowing through related attention deficit, the key prerequisite to motivation and unification with recovery.

Regardless, not enough attention is being given to guest resilience during the intake process according to Rudzinsky and associates.

Substance use/misuse “remains preoccupied with describing and analyzing the risks of people who use drugs, however more recently there has been a drive to use a strengths-based or resilience approach as an alternative to investigating drug use” (Rudzinsky).

Rudzinsky and associates scoped out the literature surrounding resilience as it related to substance use/misuse treatment and found:

  • “The majority of studies focus on youth and their resistance to, or engagement in, substance use”
  • There is little “research that examines recovery from substance [use/misuse] as a form of resilience”
  • Very few reported “thoroughly investigated resilience among” among people with substance use/misuse
  • Most studies presented substance use/misuse “as a ‘risk factor’ jeopardizing one’s ability to be resilient”
  • Many studies also saw substance use/misuse “as a ‘maladaptive coping strategy’, purporting one’s lack of resilience”


Present day substance use/misuse research provides a large amount of data about the internal strengths that can help in fighting off future drug use/misuse and staying in recovery.

But there is less information regarding the resources that play a role in facilitating recovery engagement, especially for adults.

Outcome-based notions of resilience in recovery are bland and do not expose the promising potential for developing resilience over time or as recovery unfolds.
The researchers concluded “overall, current conceptualizations of resilience are too narrow to recognize all the potential manifestations of resilience practices in the daily lives of individuals who actively use drugs” (Rudzinski). Meaning resilience assessment is an important part of a comprehensive substance use/misuse assessment, and most treatment facilities are blind to this valuable tool.

Reach Out

If you or a loved one wants to learn more about our substance use programs, please reach out to us today. Our admissions team is available 24/7 at (877)-RECOVERY to answer your questions.

Rudzinski K, McDonough P, Gartner R, Strike C. Is there room for resilience? A scoping review and critique of substance use literature and its utilization of the concept of resilience. Substance Abuse Treatment Prevention Policy. 2017 Sep 15;12(1):41.

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