How Privilege Can Impact Addiction Recovery

Approximately 1 in 7 Americans will face drug or alcohol addiction in their lives. But only about 10 percent of people with a substance use disorder receive specialty treatment. Although every person’s experience with recovery is unique, the process can be made easier for people who have access to recovery capital — external and internal resources that people can use to initiate and sustain recovery. Unfortunately, every person struggling with addiction does not have equal access to recovery capital, highlighting the need to account for privilege in addiction recovery strategies.

The chart below identifies the four categories of recovery capital, calling attention to the factors that may impact an individual’s ability to access those specific resources.

Type of Recovery Capital

Social: The sum of resources that each person has as a result of their relationships.

Physical: Tangible assets such as property and money that may increase recovery options.

Human: Personal skills and education, positive health, aspirations and hopes.

Cultural: Values, beliefs and attitudes that give the individual the ability to fit into mainstream society.


Cloud W and Granfield R (2009) Conceptualizing recovery capital: expansion of a theoretical construct. Substance Use and Misuse, 43: 1971–1986

Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health

Created by Counseling@Northwestern, Northwestern University’s Online Master of Arts in Counseling Program.



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