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Understanding Addiction Relapse

Relapse can be scary for people in addiction recovery. However, it’s often a normal part of many people’s recovery journeys. It doesn’t mean long-term sobriety is impossible. By recognizing warning signs, having a relapse prevention plan, and seeking suitable treatment, individuals can protect their recovery and improve their chances of staying sober.

How Common Are Addiction Relapses?

Addiction relapses are quite common. Recovering from addiction is often compared to treating other chronic diseases like hypertension or asthma because relapses can and do happen. The rate of relapse varies depending on the substance of addiction and individual factors, but studies show that around 40% to 60% of individuals with substance use disorders have relapses at some point during their recovery. Several factors contribute to relapse, including stress, exposure to drug-related cues, negative mood states, or interactions with people associated with previous substance use. However, a relapse doesn’t indicate treatment failure. It can be a sign that adjustments in treatment or coping strategies may be necessary. With effective and ongoing support, many individuals can get back on track and build upon their previous efforts. Though relapse rates are high, many individuals do achieve long-term recovery. The risk of relapse decreases as a person maintains sobriety for a longer period, making continuous treatment and support essential.

What Causes Addiction Relapse?

Think of recovery as a scale. On one side is relapse, and on the other is a solid plan filled with good habits and personal growth. People don’t remain fixed at one point; they move back and forth, depending on how they handle life’s challenges. When someone leans toward the relapse side, it means they are trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts and actions that steer them away from their goals for recovery. It’s as if the voice of addiction is louder than anything else they hear. Conversely, moving toward the side of good habits indicates a greater focus on self-improvement and making healthy choices. The key is to keep striving for the positive side, even during difficult times.

How to Prevent Relapse?

In treatment settings, individuals learn to identify high-risk situations, triggers, and stressors that may lead to relapse. They are also taught the disease model of addiction, which emphasizes that recovery is a lifelong process requiring ongoing care and support. By employing coping skills, leaning on support networks, and practicing self-care, individuals can effectively prevent relapse and navigate any potential threats to their sobriety. Some recommended strategies include:
  • Establishing a strong support system: Surround yourself with people who understand your journey and can provide encouragement and accountability.
  • Attending therapy or counseling sessions: These can help in identifying triggers, managing stress, and learning healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Practicing self-care: Engage in activities that bring you joy and promote relaxation, such as exercise, meditation, or creative hobbies.
  • Creating a relapse prevention plan: This should include coping strategies to use in high-risk situations and a list of emergency contacts to reach out to for support.
  • Seeking help when needed: If you feel like your recovery is at risk, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. It’s always better to seek assistance early on than wait until it’s too late.
By having a relapse prevention plan and actively implementing these strategies, individuals can take control of their recovery and increase their chances of long-term success. Recovery is a journey, not a destination, and setbacks are to be expected. What matters most is how we respond to these challenges and continue moving forward toward our goals. With the right tools and support, relapse can be prevented, and recovery can be safeguarded. So remember to never give up hope, and keep pushing towards that positive side of the sliding scale. There is always a way back to sobriety.

How to Tell if a Loved One Has Relapsed?

Certainly, visible signs of someone intoxicated, whether from alcohol, opioids, or other drugs, can be strong indicators of a relapse. Yet, it’s crucial to understand that many individuals with substance use disorders can skillfully conceal their usage from friends and family. For those just starting their recovery, these clear signs of being under the influence might be the main giveaway This is because the transformative journey into a sober lifestyle might not be deeply ingrained yet. For those further along in their recovery journey, the signs of relapse can be more apparent. Behavioral changes become more evident, such as someone suddenly not attending their regular twelve-step meetings. It’s important to stay observant and supportive, understanding that these signs are cries for help. Offering understanding, non-judgmental support, and professional assistance can make a significant difference in their recovery journey.

What Are the Warning Signs of Addiction Relapse?

Recognizing if a loved one has relapsed can be challenging, as many signs might be subtle, or they may try to hide their behavior. However, certain behavioral, physical, and emotional changes can be indicators. Here’s what you can look for:

Behavioral Changes

  • Secrecy or dishonesty
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Change in social circles
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed
  • They may start borrowing money, have unexplained expenses, or even steal
  • Neglecting personal hygiene or appearance
  • Increased legal troubles or brushes with law enforcement

Physical Signs

  • Weight changes, either gain or loss, without a clear explanation
  • Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are smaller or larger than usual
  • Frequent nosebleeds could be a sign of snorted drugs
  • Changes in sleep patterns, either insomnia or oversleeping
  • Noticeable tremors or unexplained injuries
  • Lack of coordination or slurred speech

Emotional and Psychological Signs

  • Mood swings or unexplained outbursts
  • Defensiveness, especially when confronted or asked about substance use
  • Increased paranoia or anxious behavior
  • Depression or expressions of hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation or energy
If you suspect a loved one has relapsed, approach the situation with empathy and concern. Accusations or confrontational behavior can be counterproductive. It might be helpful to consult a professional or a counselor to guide the conversation and offer advice on the next steps. Remember, relapse can be a part of the recovery journey, and with the right support, many individuals find their way back to sobriety.

Which Drugs Have the Highest Relapse Rates?

Relapse rates for drug use depend on various factors, such as the substance’s nature, how long and how intensely it’s been used, individual biology, the presence of any mental health disorders, and the quality of treatment and post-use support. However, some drugs are notoriously challenging to quit due to their addictive properties and the harshness of withdrawal symptoms. Here are some substances that are commonly associated with high relapse rates:
  • Opioids (including heroin and prescription painkillers): Opioids can lead to strong physical dependence. The withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant, driving many individuals back to the drug to find relief.
  • Methamphetamine (meth): Meth is a potent stimulant, and its use can lead to severe psychological cravings. The intense euphoria associated with meth use is contrasted by an equally intense crash, which can lead users to take the drug repeatedly to avoid the crash, thereby increasing the risk of relapse.
  • Cocaine: This stimulant creates intense but short-lived euphoria. Due to its short duration of action, users often binge on cocaine, leading to rapid physical and psychological dependence.
  • Alcohol: While it’s a legal substance, alcohol has profound effects on the central nervous system and is deeply embedded in many cultures, making it easily accessible and often challenging for users to abstain entirely.
  • Benzodiazepines: Drugs like Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, often prescribed for anxiety, can lead to physical dependence. Discontinuing use can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, driving some back to use.
  • Nicotine: Found in cigarettes and other tobacco products, nicotine is notoriously hard to quit, with high relapse rates often due to its easy accessibility and social acceptance in many circles.
The chronic nature of addiction means that for some, relapse can be a part of their recovery journey. With the right support and treatment strategies, many individuals can achieve and maintain long-term sobriety.

How to Deal With Relapse

Dealing with a relapse is challenging but essential in the recovery journey. Relapse can evoke feelings of guilt, shame, and hopelessness, but it’s crucial to remember that addiction is a chronic condition, and relapse can be a part of the recovery process. Here’s how to cope and move forward:
  • Don’t Beat Yourself Up: Understand that relapse doesn’t mean failure. It’s a setback, yes, but recovery is a journey with its ups and downs. Feeling guilty or ashamed can worsen the situation.
  • Seek Immediate Support: Talk to someone you trust, be it a friend, family member, therapist, or support group. Sharing your feelings and seeking advice can be therapeutic.
  • Re-Evaluate Your Recovery Plan: Reflect on what triggered the relapse. Was it stress? A certain place or person? By identifying triggers, you can adapt your recovery strategy to better safeguard against them.
  • Recommit to Recovery: Relapse can be a potent reminder of the consequences of addiction. Use this experience as motivation to strengthen your commitment to sobriety.
  • Avoid Negative Influences: Stay away from environments or people that encourage or normalize substance use. Surround yourself with positive influences and individuals who support your recovery.
  • Practice Self-Care: Engage in activities that promote physical, emotional, and mental well-being. This can include exercise, meditation, journaling, or picking up a new hobby.
  • Consider Professional Help: If you aren’t already seeing a therapist or attending a recovery program, now might be the time. For some, medication-assisted treatment or a more intensive recovery program may be beneficial.
  • Establish or Re-Establish a Routine: Structure can provide a sense of purpose and normalcy. Prioritize your recovery within this routine, ensuring you make time for therapy, support groups, or other helpful interventions.
  • Prepare for Future Challenges: Relapse can teach valuable lessons about vulnerabilities. Use this knowledge to anticipate future challenges and prepare strategies to overcome them.
  • Stay Educated: Understanding the nature of addiction can help demystify relapse and emphasize the importance of ongoing support and vigilance.
It’s important to approach a relapse with compassion and determination. It doesn’t diminish the progress you’ve made so far. With the right strategies and support, you can get back on track and continue on the path to long-term recovery.

Help is available at Grace Recovery Center for those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and associated mental health disorders.

Most Insurance Plans Accepted

Don’t let financial concerns stand in the way of seeking quality care. At Grace Recovery Center, we are committed to ensuring that individuals needing treatment for substance abuse, misuse, and addiction have access to the appropriate treatment. We work with most insurance providers, with the exception of Medicare/Medicaid, and are available to help you find out the details of your benefits and how much of your treatment is covered. 

To explore your insurance coverage options for alcohol and drug rehab, kindly reach out to us via phone or by completing our insurance verification form, and an admissions coordinator will be in touch. If you don’t currently have insurance coverage or have limited benefits, our team can walk you through other options available to you or a loved one.

Medical Reviewer

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