Relapse is a common and often challenging aspect of the drug rehabilitation process. For those who have successfully completed a drug rehab program, the thought of returning to substance abuse can be overwhelming and disheartening. However, it is important to understand that relapse is not a failure, but rather a part of the journey toward lasting recovery. In this guide, we will explore the causes of relapse, strategies for avoiding it, and steps for coping with it should it occur. By understanding the triggers and potential challenges of relapse, drug rehab graduates can be better prepared to maintain their sobriety and continue on their path to recovery.

85 to 86% of people that come to rehab relapse after receiving formal treatment. Improvements of relapse rates have occured as a result of medication assisted treatment. Outcomes are greatly improved when medications are used to assist in the standard of care but only half of treatment centers use medication in the treatment of the disease of chronic addiction.

Dr Todd Carran

The importance of addressing relapse in drug rehabilitation

Relapse is a critical issue in drug rehabilitation because it can set back an individual’s progress and potentially lead to further substance abuse. Addressing relapse is essential for individuals in recovery to prevent a return to old habits and to maintain their sobriety. Failure to address relapse can result in a cycle of treatment and relapse, making it harder for the individual to achieve long-term recovery. By understanding the reasons behind relapse and developing strategies to prevent it, drug rehab graduates can increase their chances of success and lead fulfilling substance-free lives. Addressing relapse is not only important for the individual, but also for their loved ones and the wider community, as substance abuse can have far-reaching consequences. Thus, it is critical that relapse is addressed in drug rehabilitation to ensure the success and well-being of individuals in recovery.

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What is a relapse?

Relapse is a term used to describe a return to substance abuse after a period of sobriety. It is a common challenge faced by many individuals in recovery and can occur at any stage of the recovery process. Understanding the definition of relapse is the first step in addressing this issue. Relapse can be defined as a temporary setback in the recovery process, in which an individual returns to substance abuse after having been in a state of sobriety. It is important to note that relapse does not necessarily mean the individual has failed in their recovery efforts, but rather that they are in need of additional support and resources to maintain their sobriety. By recognizing the definition of relapse and its impact on the recovery process, individuals can be better equipped to address this issue and continue on their journey to lasting recovery.

What are the most common causes of relapse?

Relapse can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Stress: High levels of stress, such as financial problems, relationship issues, or work-related stress, can trigger a return to substance abuse.
  2. Triggers: Certain people, places, or situations that are associated with substance abuse can trigger cravings and lead to relapse.
  3. Lack of support: Individuals who do not have a strong support system or do not participate in aftercare programs are more likely to relapse.
  4. Mental health issues: Individuals who struggle with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or trauma may be more likely to relapse.
  5. Lack of coping skills: Individuals who do not have effective coping skills for dealing with negative emotions and stress may turn to substance abuse as a means of coping.
  6. Lapses in judgment: Impulsive decisions or lapses in judgment can lead to substance abuse, particularly in high-risk situations.
  7. Resuming old habits: Going back to old routines and habits that were associated with substance abuse can trigger a return to substance abuse.

It is important to note that relapse is not limited to these factors and can be caused by a combination of various elements. By understanding the common causes of relapse, individuals in recovery can better prepare themselves to prevent it and maintain their sobriety.

What impact does relapse have on recovery?

Relapse can have a significant impact on an individual’s recovery journey, including:

  • Setback in progress: Relapse can undo the progress that an individual has made in their recovery and lead to a return to previous patterns of substance abuse.
  • Decreased confidence and self-esteem: Relapse can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and disappointment, which can negatively impact an individual’s confidence and self-esteem.
  • Strained relationships: Substance abuse can damage relationships with friends and family, and relapse can exacerbate these problems.
  • Increased risk of overdose: A return to substance abuse after a period of sobriety can increase the risk of overdose, especially if the individual has lost their tolerance.
  • Difficulty in seeking treatment: Relapse can make it harder for an individual to seek treatment in the future, as they may feel discouraged or embarrassed about their setback.
  • Interference with daily life: Substance abuse can interfere with an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks and responsibilities, and relapse can exacerbate these problems.

It is important to understand that relapse is not a failure, but rather a part of the recovery process. By addressing the impact of relapse and seeking support, individuals in recovery can get back on track if the relapse is identified and addressed quickly. There is a popular quote stating “relapse is part of recovery” which is another way of saying, get back to support recovery groups quickly before too much damage is done.

What Are Examples Of Relapse Triggers or At-Risk Behaviors?

Relapse triggers can vary greatly from person to person, but some common examples include:

  • Stressful events: Job loss, financial problems, relationship issues, or family conflicts can trigger a return to substance abuse.
  • People, places, and things associated with substance abuse: Being around individuals who use drugs or visiting places, where drugs were previously used, can trigger cravings and relapse.
  • Emotional triggers: Negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, or depression can trigger a return to substance abuse.
  • Physical triggers: Health problems, pain, or discomfort can trigger a return to substance abuse, especially if the individual previously used drugs to cope with these issues.
  • Social pressure: Feeling pressure to use drugs or alcohol in social situations can trigger a relapse.
  • Boredom or lack of structure: A lack of meaningful activities or structure in one’s life can trigger a return to substance abuse.
  • Celebratory events: Celebrations such as holidays or birthdays can trigger a relapse, especially if the individual previously used drugs in these types of situations.

What plans can you make to avoid relapse?

There are several strategies that individuals in recovery can use to avoid relapse, including:

  • Building a strong support system: Surrounding oneself with positive and supportive friends, family, and peers can help individuals avoid relapse and maintain their sobriety.
  • Staying accountable: Participating in therapy, support groups, or having a sponsor can provide accountability and help individuals stay on track in their recovery.
  • Practicing self-care: Engaging in activities such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies can help individuals reduce stress and improve their overall well-being.
  • Avoiding high-risk situations: Identifying and avoiding people, places, and situations that are associated with substance abuse can help individuals avoid relapse.
  • Developing coping skills: Learning healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress and negative emotions can help individuals avoid turning to substance abuse.
  • Staying active in treatment and aftercare programs: Participating in aftercare programs, such as support groups or therapy, can provide ongoing support and resources to help individuals maintain their sobriety.
  • Having a relapse plan: Developing a plan for managing cravings and triggers can help individuals avoid relapse and maintain their sobriety.

How can family members deal with a loved one that relapses?

Dealing with a loved one’s relapse can be difficult and emotional, but there are steps that family members can take to support their loved one and help them get back on track:

  • Maintain a non-judgmental attitude: It is important for family members to avoid blaming or shaming their loved one for their relapse. Instead, they should offer support and encouragement.
  • Encourage them to seek help: Family members can encourage their loved one to re-engage in treatment or attend support groups to help them get back on track.
  • Offer practical support: Family members can offer practical support, such as transportation or assistance with daily tasks, to help their loved one during this difficult time.
  • Attend therapy or support groups: Family members can attend therapy or support groups to better understand their loved one’s journey and to develop coping skills for dealing with their loved one’s relapse.
  • Set boundaries: Family members should set clear boundaries for their own well-being, such as not enabling their loved one’s substance abuse or not exposing themselves to dangerous situations.
  • Take care of yourself: Dealing with a loved one’s relapse can be emotionally challenging, so it is important for family members to prioritize their own self-care and well-being.