According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), "The chronic nature of addiction means that for some people relapse, or a return to drug use after an attempt to stop, can be part of the process, but newer treatments are designed to help with relapse prevention. Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are likely to relapse. Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from addiction relapses, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment".
Is relapse only common to substance abuse?
Data shows relapse rate for substance use is comparable to chronic illnesses such as hypertension and Asma. Substance abuse relapse rate is 40% to 60%, and the rate for the other above mentioned illnesses is between 50% to 70% which statistically speaking, they are very close to each other. (NIDA, Treatment & Recovery - Online publication). Substance use disorders should be treated like any other chronic illness and relapse should be considered a sign for resumed, modified, or new treatment.
What is the main reason for relapse?
Based on various research in the field of addiction and recovery, there are stress cues linked to drug use such as people, places, things, and moods. But the most important of all triggers is contact with drugs which is responsible for most relapses in those in recovery. The most vulnerable are the ones who are not up with their coping skills. Being addicted means being aware of every moment of the temptations of drug use. Coping skills thought in various treatment settings allow one to anticipate and generally come up with a counter move to reduce the chance of relapse. There are many who are tempted daily and successfully avoid relapse.
Is relapse the sign of failure in recovery?
Relapse is most certainly a setback and it should be considered a temporary one at that. As common as relapse is, there are thousands who relapsed and yet went on to successfully stop drug or alcohol abuse. These are the ones who are aware of the potential of relapse but the awareness helps them to navigate the dangers so they don't get away from their goal of recovery.
How concerning is a relapse for a recovering person?
Relapse is not only going back to doing drugs. According to NIDA, "while relapse is a normal part of recovery, for some drugs, it can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person uses as much of the drug as they did before quitting, they can easily overdose because their bodies are no longer adapted to their previous level of drug exposure. An overdose happens when the person uses enough of a drug to produce uncomfortable feelings, life-threatening symptoms, or death".
How relapse can be prevented?
The goal for everyone in recovery is to successfully stop the drug abuse and not have a relapse. But, unfortunately, relapse does happen for many. The best tool for relapse prevention is coping skills thought during the treatment. However, change of behavior, circumstances associated with past drug use is a must for a successful recovery. Some of the changes that usually are recommended during treatment, based on each individual's circumstances, are regarding one's medical, mental, social, occupational, family, and legal needs. If there are issues in those areas which were influential in the cause of addiction and not addressed during the treatment or re-occur after the treatment, they can be a major concern for relapse. Scientists have been developing therapies to interfere with triggers that cause relapse and to help patients stay in recovery, and there are effective medications that currently can be used as well.