After a person goes through addiction recovery, it’s is very common for them to experience some form of relapse. Up to 60% of patients who receive substance abuse treatment will relapse within one year, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Addiction recovery is an extremely difficult process, and for many, it takes several attempts to completely stop using drugs or alcohol. It’s important to understand why drug addicts relapse and how to avoid it.

To understand relapse, first understand addiction

People recovering from addiction often have one or more relapses along the way. For some drugs, a relapse can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person uses as much as they used to before quitting, they can easily overdose. An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death. Someone can overdose on purpose or accidentally.

Drug addiction is a chronic (long-lasting) disease. That means it stays with the person for a long time, sometimes for life. Recovery from addiction means you must stop using drugs AND learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and dealing with problems. Drug addiction makes it hard to function in daily life. It affects how you act with your family, at work, and in the community. It is hard to change so many things at once and not fall back into old habits. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong effort.

What is a relapse?

A relapse is a recurrence of a past condition, typically a medical condition. Within the context of drug abuse, a relapse is the recommencement of drug use after a period of self-restraint. The causes, or triggers, of a relapse are often similar regardless of the specific drug that was used. A relapse can be a single slip which can cause the recovery addict to spiral back down into addiction.

Drug addiction is known as a relapsing disease because to relapse is common among people in recovery. Repeated drug use can cause changes in the brain that may affect an addicted person’s self-control and ability to resist cravings. Drug relapse prevention is an essential part of the recovery process because people remain at increased risk for many years.

The definition of drug relapse is evolving, thereby complicating efforts to explain it. Researchers debate whether drug relapse is a process or an outcome in and of itself. The origins of the definition of drug relapse come from a medical model that viewed addiction like a disease: a patient returns to a state of sickness after a period of remission. It’s the process that leads people in recovery to return to their drug abuse.

What causes someone to relapse?

Many relapses of drug or alcohol use are caused by triggers; situations in a person’s life that causes stress or unhappiness and tempts them to reach for drugs or alcohol to lessen the pain or uncomfortableness of the situation. Other reasons to relapse can include:

  • Overwhelming feelings previously masked by drugs or alcohol
  • Cravings for the physical sensations that drugs or alcohol gave them, such as calmness, happiness, or even euphoria
  • Self-anger that drives the person to punish themselves by feeling they lack self-worth
  • Returning to environments, such as bars or parties, where drugs and alcohol are prevalent and become a temptation.

It’s important to understand that recovery is a process, a journey, and slips and relapses WILL happen. It’s equally important to know what to do to avoid them, and what to do when they happen.

What to do when you suffer a relapse and how to avoid it

Relapse isn’t a sign of failure.  As stated before, it’s a common and expected part of the recovery process. Here’s what to do if you suffer a relapse. First, you need to understand the role you played in the relapse. Take responsibility for the relapse and the actions to stop it. Next, reach out to a drug addiction treatment center immediately to get help. Engage your support group and let them know you’ve had a setback. These are critical steps to ensure the relapse doesn’t spiral out of control.

To avoid a relapse in the future, you may need to change the people who are negatively influencing you. You may also need to change your environment, even if it’s a workplace if drugs or alcohol are present. If the issue is in your home environment, you may consider a sober living facility until you are back in control again to avoid temptation. And last, come up with a plan to avoid such a relapse in the future. Many addiction recovery centers offer life skills and coaching to help with these situations.

Once you understand why drug addicts relapse and how to avoid you, your path to addiction recovery can be successful.

If you’re struggling with addiction, contact Scottsdale Recovery Center now to get the help you need. For over a decade, Scottsdale Recovery Center has offered an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare, providing “The Gold Standard in Care” with the Joint Commission Accreditation. 

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.

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