Relapsing does not mean you cannot be helped. It is a common occurrence during addiction recovery. Learn more about relapse and addiction.
In terms of addiction, relapse is defined by an in-recovery patient partaking in drug and alcohol use. Relapse is a far more common occurrence than many people might suspect. Because the cravings and urge to engage in drug use are life-long, all individuals who recover from substance abuse are at risk.
A drug relapse prevention plan is essential to long-term recovery. Recovery and sobriety can still be obtained after relapse as long as an individual is willing to put in the work.
Studies show that on average, 70% of people relapse after entering recovery. Clients who have maintained sobriety for an extended period (defined in some medical circles as 15 years or more) are also at risk for relapse. Patients who have undergone recovery and maintained sobriety long-term often have fewer support systems in place to help prevent relapse. Most medical focus is given to people in the throes of dependency.1
Strictly speaking, relapse is not a part of recovery, but it is a high risk. The high rates of drug relapse indicate that it is more likely for someone to experience relapse than it is not to, and special attention must be made to prevent relapse.
Relapse is often something a patient overcomes on the road to long-term sober living. Short-term relapses may be more dangerous than active drug use due to the adapting nature of the body. A leading cause of overdose-related relapse is when someone attempts to ingest the same amount and potency of drugs taken during active dependency. The body can no longer handle the excess amounts of drugs and alcohol, which can lead to various, mortal health complications.2
Relapse does not happen all at once. Cravings steadily increase while resistance to drug use erodes. Over time, these cravings can lead to relapse. The stages of relapse include:4
Causes for relapse include:
These are the most common signs of relapse:4
Creating a relapse prevention plan that is specific to each patient is crucial to ensuring the plan’s effectiveness and the long-term success of the individual. There are three important factors to consider.
It is easier to gauge the likelihood of a patient’s relapse once their history with substances is understood. It can also reveal what methods have been effective or ineffective for patients who have been in and out of recovery.
Uncovering the triggers of addiction, including habits or environments, helps to prevent relapse. Specific triggers are often revealed in therapy, such as certain feelings, senses, or memories that may cause relapse.
Figuring out what to do during intense cravings is critical for relapse prevention. It can be something as simple as working out, engaging in a creative activity, or talking with a support group. The specific action is often highly individualized. Committing to the alternative action can take time, but it is worth it in the end.
Here are some of the important components of relapse prevention:
The Gorski-Cenaps model, named after Terence T. Gorski, focuses on healing all aspects of the body, mind, and spirit. In this way, it adopts a system-like view of addiction in which active drug use is only one component of the overall illness. Special attention is made towards the stages of relapse and how to recognize them.5
The Marlatt Model of RP, named after G. Alan Marlatt, hones healthy coping mechanisms, triggers, and life outlook. Marlatt’s model establishes the aforementioned factors and then works to build a client’s resiliency by changing their overall behavior.6
Relapsing is possible at any stage, but so is recovery. Get the help you need to better your chance of committing to sober living.