Wellness in Substance Use Prevention & Recovery

Wellness in Substance Use Prevention & Recovery

Most substance abuse specialists would likely agree that wellness is a necessary component of treatment, recovery, and prevention.

We conducted a quick scan of the online content addressing wellness in both treatment and recovery as well as prevention, to assess the role of wellness in both arenas. 

Wellness in Treatment and Recovery

An online search for “wellness in substance abuse treatment” brings up a plethora of articles and material on the importance of wellness for those in alcohol and drug treatment and recovery.

Most of these posts, as one might expect, are by treatment and recovery organizations and highlight the need for a wellness lifestyle for successful recovery.

Below are a couple of examples of articles found on the topic of wellness and treatment or recovery. 

Faces & Voices of Recovery, a non-profit dedicated to organizing and mobilizing Americans in recovery for addiction posted an article on “The Impact of Wellness on Recovery.”

This blog discusses how wellness can have a profound effect on people in recovery in terms of successful recovery outcomes and overall physical health and well-being. 

And that it’s essential that any approach to recovery includes activities that promote physical and mental wellness.

Highlighted in this article are ways to achieve wellness during recovery, including movement (i.e., physical activity), eating well, and mindfulness: https://facesandvoicesofrecovery.org/2019/09/13/the-impact-of-wellness-on-recovery/

The Rural Health Information Hub has a webpage titled: “Incorporating Wellness Activities into Treatment.” 

On this page they provide research and resources on nutrition, weight management and physical activity, and complementary and integrative medicine: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/toolkits/substance-abuse/4/incorporating-wellness

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published the article: “Promoting Wellness for Better Behavioral and Physical Health.”

In this article the author, Mel Kobrin, notes that people living with serious mental or substance use disorders are dying decades earlier than the general population, mostly from preventable, chronic medical conditions.

To help address these health disparities, SAMHSA launched its Wellness Initiative based on a wellness model Dr. Swarbrick created for people with behavioral conditions.

This effort encourages individuals, families, and behavioral health and primary care practitioners, as well as peer-run, faith-based, and other community organizations, to improve mental and physical health by making positive lifestyle changes: https://mfpcc.samhsa.gov/ENewsArticles/Article12b_2017.aspx

Wellness in Prevention

In the same SAMHSA article mentioned above, wellness is described as “empowering and prevention oriented.”

Specifically, as Swarbrick points out, "Wellness is a conscious, deliberate process whereby a person makes choices for a self-defined lifestyle that is both healthier and more satisfying (Swarbrick, 1997, 2006)."

This approach emphasizes having positive goals, learning self-management skills (e.g., self-care when hearing disruptive voices), and developing healthy habits (Swarbrick et al., 2011, p. 329; Swarbrick, 2014, p. 11).

"A focus on health, positive features (strengths), and personal responsibility rather than dependence and illness can engender optimism and a belief in the client's capacity to exert personal control in managing health needs…" (Swarbrick, 1997, p. 2).

A search of “wellness in substance use prevention” resulted in more diverse range of topics than those found when searching for “wellness in substance abuse treatment.” 

One item resulting from the wellness in prevention search was a description of the evidence-based SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness program designed to prevent alcohol and drug use and promote wellness-enhancing behaviors among youth, including physical activity, healthy eating, sleep and stress control: https://preventionpluswellness.com/products/evidence-based-alcohol-drug-sport-prevention-plus-wellness

The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health described integrating substance use prevention within their School Based Wellness Centers and Wellness Network clinicians, including SBIRT practices: https://www.thelatrust.org/substance-use-prevention

One of various worksite articles titled: “Workplace Wellness: Preventing Substance Abuse” was published by Lumity, which described substance abuse as the unhealthy use of alcohol, drugs or other substances that negatively interferes with a person’s functioning or well-being:  https://www.lumity.com/workplace-wellness-preventing-substance-abuse

The Melrose Health and Wellness Coalition in Melrose, Massachusetts represents one of many coalitions with a prevention and wellness emphasis. 

The Coalition has a stated mission addressing wellness and prevention as: “…preventing substance use, increasing access to critical resources and promoting health and quality of life for all Melrose residents.”: https://www.cityofmelrose.org/melrose-health-and-wellness-coalition

Many colleges and universities integrate prevention and wellness, such as the University of Kentucky’s Campus Recreation office.

They describe their “Alcohol & Other Substances” programming as Prevention, Outreach, and Wellness Education Resource (POWER) which uses a multi-dimensional approach to address alcohol and other drug misuse: https://www.uky.edu/recwell/wellness/aod


In conclusion, wellness is a necessary component of substance abuse treatment, recovery, and prevention.

A quick scan of the online content addressing wellness in both treatment and recovery as well as prevention found many similar articles addressing wellness within substance abuse treatment and recovery, but more diverse content in the prevention arena.

In addition to SAMHSA describing wellness as “prevention oriented,” the online literature shows wellness is infused in evidence-based prevention programs for youth (i.e., SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness), within school-based health clinics, in community coalitions, worksites, and colleges and universities. 

Based on the online search findings, we recommend greater emphasis be placed on wellness in prevention, particularly for youth and adolescents in school and community settings, to ensure more effective and holistic substance use prevention programs.

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