Anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of substance abusers will relapse following initial recovery efforts, with the likelihood of doing so depending on factors such as the specific substance involved and the extent of the history of previous abuse. Having an understanding of why relapses occur can make it easier for recovering addicts to determine what type of follow-up treatment they’re likely to need following their initial rehabilitation efforts.
While all stress can’t realistically be avoided, addicts can be taught to recognize signs of relapse, such as added stress at work or in their home life, and how to appropriately deal with the situation in a productive manner – like going for a short walk or taking up a relaxing hobby. It also helps to have an outside source, whether it be a sponsor or a designated counselor, that can provide immediate support when bouts of stress produce an urge to escape with drugs or alcohol.
Relapses tend to occur when an addict finds himself or herself around familiar triggers, including people who encourage or turn a blind eye to addictive habits. It helps to identify such triggers, even if it’s specific family members and friends, during initial treatment so recovering addicts can learn how to avoid such people, especially during the crucial period following recovery.
Frustration, anger, anxiety and loneliness are just some of the common negative emotions can result in relapses. An inpatient program can help addicts learn how to recognize emotional triggers and develop a new network of support other than people likely to encourage drowning their sorrows in a drink or two or a quick fix.
More addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin tend to be associated with relapses triggered by simply being around such substances again after initial treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, withdrawal symptoms from another shot of heroine can occur within hours after a fix wears off, emphasizing how easy it can be to become addicted again when familiar temptations return. The same is true when it comes to alcohol.
Relapses aren’t necessarily linked to any particular time of the year. However, an argument can be made that end of the year celebrations like office Christmas parties, family gatherings and New Year’s Eve parties can lead to increased social pressure to slip back into previous habits. Social pressures can also affect related addictions. For instance, having a few drinks may make an addict more open to the suggestion to have a joint later, which can substantially impair judgement and result in further substance abuse.
Making a case for putting addiction on the same level as chronic conditions like high blood pressure and asthma, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) points out similar rates for addiction relapses and relapses associated with chronic illnesses. Regardless of where you stand on how addictions are classified, there’s no reason why a relapse shouldn’t be viewed as a temporary setback on the path to long-term recovery.