BACKGROUND: This study examined stability of remission in patients who were abstainers and non-problem users at 1-year after entering private, outpatient alcohol and drug treatment. We examined: (a) How does risk of relapse change over time? (b) What was the risk of relapse for non-problem users versus abstainers? (c) What individual, treatment, and extra-treatment characteristics predicted time to relapse, and did these differ by non-problem use versus abstinence? METHODS: The sample consisted of 684 adults in remission (i.e., abstainers or non-problem users) 1 year following treatment intake. Participants were interviewed at intake, and 1, 5, 7, 9, and 11 years after intake. We used discrete-time survival analysis to examine when relapse is most likely to occur and predictors of relapse. RESULTS: Relapse was most likely at 5-year, and least likely at 11-year follow-up. Non-problem users had twice the odds of relapse compared to abstainers. Younger individuals and those with fewer 12-step meetings and shorter index treatment had higher odds of relapse than others. We found no significant interactions between non-problem use and the other covariates suggesting that significant predictors of outcome did not differ for non-problem users. CONCLUSIONS: Non-problem use is not an optimal 1-year outcome for those in an abstinence-oriented, heterogeneous substance use treatment program. Future research should examine whether these results are found in harm reduction treatment and self-help models, or in those with less severe problems. Results suggest treatment retention and 12-step participation are prognostic markers of long-term positive outcomes for those achieving remission at 1 year.