According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “more than 20 million people in the United States have a substance use disorder.” Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, which means it can worsen over time if left untreated. Unfortunately, sometimes individuals still suffer from a relapse even after they have completed a drug and alcohol rehab program.
Because addiction is a chronic disease that requires a lifetime of maintenance, sometimes addicts and alcoholics relapse. A relapse always indicates that the individual is suffering from an underlying issue, did not receive the treatment they needed, or stopped doing the things that helped keep them sober. Whatever the cause of a person’s relapse, they must receive professional treatment to help them get back on track.
Unfortunately, some people suffer from chronic relapse, or they relapse multiple times before achieving long-term recovery. Being aware of the reasons behind why someone may relapse more than once can help you understand your loved one’s condition and provide them with the support they need.
How Common is Addiction Relapse?
Unfortunately, because substance use disorders are chronic in nature, relapse is a part of many people’s stories. Other chronic conditions like high blood pressure or asthma also cause frequent relapses. For example, the relapse rate for both hypertension and asthma is between 50 to 70%.
When it comes to addiction, the relapse rate is somewhere between 40 to 60%. This is less than other common chronic conditions, however, it is still a serious concern. If you or a loved one suffers from a substance use disorder, you must learn how to prevent relapses from occurring.
While it is possible to avoid experiencing a relapse, doing so can be extremely difficult for some individuals. Some people are more at risk of relapsing than others, especially if they did not receive the treatment they needed. Preventing relapse involves becoming aware of your triggers, keeping up with your recovery maintenance techniques, and staying connected with your support system.
Reasons Why Some People Relapse More Than Once
A big part of learning how to prevent relapse is understanding what causes individuals to experience it. It is especially important to understand what causes people to have multiple relapses. Because relapse puts you at risk of experiencing dangerous consequences of substance abuse, such as life-threatening overdoses, learning how to prevent them is vital.
The most common reasons people relapse more than once include:
They Don’t Get the Right Treatment
There are many different types of addiction treatment because each person suffering from addiction has experienced varied issues and requires different methods of recovery. Certain types of treatment may be more beneficial for you than other kinds as recovery is not a one-size-fits-all situation. It’s important to attend addiction rehab programs that use individualized treatment planning.
Individualized treatment planning involves an in-depth assessment of your family, medical, psychiatric, and substance abuse history. This information allows the doctors and therapists to create a treatment plan that is suited to your unique needs, ensuring you receive the right kind of treatment for you.
Examples of different types of addiction treatment include:
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Holistic-therapy focused programs
- 12-step recovery programs
- Evidence-based behavioral therapy treatment
- Dual diagnosis treatment that includes services for addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions
They Stop Treating Their Addiction
Oftentimes, people believe that once they are feeling better they can stop focusing on their recovery maintenance techniques. When you suffer from addiction you have to continue to do the things that helped you get sober to remain healthy long-term. Just as a diabetic person would have to continue taking insulin, you have to keep treating your addiction.
If someone were to stop treating their addiction, they would face a high risk of relapse. For example, if someone stopped attending therapy, didn’t continue going to recovery support meetings, and failed to manage their emotions effectively, they would begin having a hard time staying sober. You must continue to keep up with your recovery maintenance techniques to prevent a relapse.
They Don’t Treat the Root Cause
Reputable addiction treatment centers understand that addiction often develops due to underlying causes, such as untreated mental health conditions or childhood trauma that was never addressed. This means that addiction was a symptom, rather than the original cause of a person’s struggles. Unfortunately, some addiction treatment programs focus on treating addiction instead of taking a look at what caused you to begin abusing substances in the first place.
While you will experience recovery in the short term, eventually the root cause of your addiction will begin to affect you once again. Over time, this puts you at extreme risk of relapsing, and is one of the most common reasons that people suffer from multiple relapses.
To ensure long-term sobriety, you must work with a therapist to determine the root cause of your addiction and then promptly address it.
They Have Underlying Medical or Psychiatric Conditions
Lastly, many people who suffer from addiction also have underlying medical or psychiatric conditions that they are unaware of. If they do not catch these conditions during treatment, or they develop later on, these conditions can cause them to crave drugs and alcohol.
For example, let’s say you completed an addiction treatment program and were thriving in your sobriety. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, you begin to experience chronic pain. In the past, you were able to use opioid pain relievers to treat your pain.
The pain you are experiencing could cause you to begin craving opioids for relief. Once you begin taking them, you could fall back into your old habits and relapse. This is how underlying medical or psychiatric conditions can cause you to relapse, even after years of sobriety.
To prevent this, you should attend regular doctor’s visits and therapy sessions so that any underlying conditions can be addressed early on. This would prevent you from attempting to self-medicate your symptoms, ultimately keeping you sober in the long run.
Finding Help for Addiction Relapse
If you or a loved one recently relapsed after a period of sobriety or have suffered relapse more than once, you must seek professional help or consider going back to rehab. Relapsing on drugs or alcohol can be extremely dangerous after a period of abstinence, as your tolerance is not as high as it used to be. This can cause you to experience life-threatening and sometimes fatal overdoses.
At Moving Mountains Recovery Center, we can provide you with the support and tools you need to maintain long-term recovery. Contact us today for more information on how to get started.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): Addiction; Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/browse-objectives/addiction
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction; Retrieved Jan 2023 from: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery