What is National Recovery Month?

September 19, 2019
National Recovery Month 2019

This September marks the 30th anniversary of National Recovery Month, put on by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). National Recovery Month is an annual nationwide event created to raise awareness surrounding treatment for substance abuse and other mental health disorders.

The amount of people struggling with mental health and substance use disorders continues to rise every year. This increase is an alarming epidemic in the United States that still shows no signs of slowing down, which can feel like an overwhelming mountain to overcome. Fortunately, SAMHSA aims to do whatever they can to help.

National Recovery Month exists to celebrate people in recovery from a mental or substance use disorder. SAMHSA uses the event to rally support for people who are working hard at their recovery. As more people understand the impact of these disorders, the more they’ll want to do something to help within their own families and communities.

What exactly is National Recovery Month, and how did it come about? What does SAMHSA do to support the individuals working to remain in recovery from their substance use and mental health disorders? And how can you get involved and help out in your area? Continue reading to learn more about this incredible annual event.

Statistics on Mental Health and Substance Use in the U.S.

Do you know how widespread the impact of substance abuse and mental health disorders is? They affect a more significant portion of the population than you might imagine. According to research from SAMHSA, 46.6 million people ages 12 and older lived with some mental illness in 2017. Of this group, 11.2 million had a serious mental illness.

Additionally, 19.7 million people in the same age group had a substance or alcohol use disorder. 14.5 million had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), and 7.5 million struggled with a substance use disorder. More than 72,000 Americans died of an overdose due to drugs in 2017 alone, or about 200 people every single day.

Even further, some live with both mental illness and a substance use disorder at the same time. These individuals have what mental health professionals refer to as a co-occurring disorder. Each diagnosis is challenging to work with on its own; people with co-occurring disorders have a second disorder to deal with entirely.

Despite this widespread impact across the nation, people often still don’t receive the treatment they need. An estimated 20.7 million people throughout the United States needed some level of treatment for substance abuse. Only 4 million of them received any type of assistance. There’s a clear problem going on when only 1 out of 5 people get the help that they need. What can we do?

What is National Recovery Month?

National Recovery Month is one of SAMHSA’s responses to the substance abuse and mental health epidemic. They celebrate the people in recovery working to fight back against the disorders they live with on a daily basis. SAMHSA wants to foster an environment of care and support with the hope that a larger number of people will stand up to do the same.

It also exists to help people who haven’t sought treatment or tried getting sober yet. It seems impossible to escape the vicious cycle of mental illness or substance dependence. Some people also find it difficult to ask for help in a society that often still condemns mental health or substance use disorders as weaknesses.

When someone who is struggling sees others living free from the chains of their disorders; they will see and believe that it’s possible for them, too. They see others leading happy, healthy, rewarding lives and realize that people truly do recover. National Recovery Month raises hope and puts the possibility of recovery into the spotlight to encourage others who need help.

History of National Recovery Month

National Recovery Month initially launched as “Treatment Works! Month” in 1989. It brought the work of substance abuse professionals into the light during a time before the internet; a time when recovery seemed less accepted. There was much less understanding surrounding substance use disorder at the time and these clinicians pursued what some saw as less than desirable work.

In 1998, SAMHSA expanded the awareness month to include the individuals in drug and alcohol recovery as well as their treatment professionals. The name changed to “National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month” to reflect the inclusion of people recovering from their substance dependence.

SAMHSA shifted the focus of the national awareness month again in 2011 to include people living with mental illness. Its current name, National Recovery Month, came into fruition as it continued evolving to include a wide range of people recovering in the face of the seemingly impossible.

National Recovery Month Today

The theme for 2019’s National Recovery Month is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger.” SAMHSA understands more than anyone that getting sober alone is a challenge. Instead, when we stand together in support of those around us, we create a better environment for people to continue on a path of recovery.

SAMHSA works to raise additional awareness of new treatment methods, such as medication-assisted treatment and alcohol monitoring. Recovery Month also nods to the growing recovery movement that continues emerging year after year. Despite the rising rates of addiction, it also seems more and more people find sobriety each year.

In honor of its 30th year, SAMHSA introduced a new logo to incorporate the values surrounding recovery month. This year, Recovery Month also focuses on the first responders, the healthcare community, youth, and other community members supporting the recovery movement. Greater numbers of people get involved as the impact of substance abuse and mental illness expands.

National Recovery Month 2019 30th Anniversary


Caption: National Recovery Month 30th Anniversary Logo

Recovery Month now features stories of people who work daily to support their long-term recovery and the clinicians who helped them get there. It highlights the achievements of both those recovering from their disorders and the professionals in these fields. National Recovery Month also works to increase the availability of prevention and treatment services for people nationwide.

How Can You Get Involved or Show Support?

More than 200 organizations, from federal and local governments to nonprofits, support National Recovery Month each year. Are you involved in an organization or group that wants to get involved with the movement? SAMHSA offers a downloadable toolkit full of resources to help you plan a National Recovery Month event.

Included in the toolkit is the new logo for the 30th anniversary as well as tips for various facets of the community. There are targeted outreach resources for community members, the healthcare professionals, first responders, and emerging leaders in the recovery community. Look over the National Recovery Month website to download a copy and learn more about how you can help.

If you’re already informed, try including friends and family in your support efforts. The more people involved in raising awareness, the more likely people are to seek treatment. Substance abuse and mental illness affect every facet of the population. You might not realize who exactly you’ll impact or who might need your encouragement.

If you have a loved one struggling from mental health or substance abuse disorders, help them realize that the disease is not something they should feel ashamed about, and that there are many ways to get help. For example, a person suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder can get help by using Soberlink, an accountability tool that keeps them connected to their recovery circle. Soberlink’s mission is to create a modern and discreet user experience that helps to erase the stigma surrounding alcohol monitoring.

Visit SAMHSA’s website for further information about National Recovery Month and the organization’s other work. Recovery is only possible when we stand up and work together to fight back against substance abuse and mental illness. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration does all it can each year but it’s up to you to do your part.

About the Author

Soberlink supports accountability for sobriety through a comprehensive alcohol monitoring system. Combining a breathalyzer with wireless connectivity, the portable design and technology includes facial recognition, tamper detection and real-time reporting. Soberlink proves sobriety with reliability to foster trust and peace of mind.

Learn More About Soberlink

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