What Recovery Means

"The WHO Lexicon of alcohol and drug terms (1994, p. 55) defines ‘recovery’ as:

"Maintenance of abstinence from alcohol and/or other drug use by any means. The term is particularly associated with mutual-help groups, and in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other twelve-step groups refers to the process of attaining and maintaining sobriety. Since recovery is viewed as a lifelong process, an AA member is always viewed internally as a ‘recovering’ alcoholic, although ‘recovered’ alcoholic may be used as a description to the outside world;

"whereas ‘rehabilitation’ is defined as:

"The process by which an individual with a substance use disorder achieves an optimal state of health, psychological functioning, and social well-being. Rehabilitation follows the initial phase of treatment (which may involve detoxification and medical and psychiatric treatment) […] There is an expectation of social reintegration into the wider community. (emphasis added)"

"According to these definitions there is a clear overlap between social reintegration and rehabilitation, whereby social reintegration forms an aspect of, but is not synonymous with, rehabilitation. Recovery, according to the WHO glossary, appears to be relatively unrelated to the term. However, since the publication of the WHO glossary in 1994, the understanding of the term ‘recovery’ has developed further and today it is much closer to the meaning of the term ‘rehabilitation’ as quoted above. As Best and colleagues (2010, p. 275) note: ‘The target of recovery is about quality of life rather than abstinence, although abstinence may be a long-term goal for clients.’"


European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. EMCDDA Insights Series No 13: Social reintegration and employment: evidence and interventions for drug users in treatment. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2012, p. 31.