Relapse occurs when a person who has worked through addiction begins using again. It could mean one drink or it could mean a weekend of using drugs. Once a person with addiction starts using again, it’s hard to stop.
In 2018, 67,300 people in the U.S. died from a drug-involved overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As many as 60 percent of people will relapse at some point. Seeing this number and recognizing all you’ve gone through to get to recovery, you might feel discouraged or hopeless. How can relapse happen so easily?
The Stages of Relapse
Relapse occurs as a process, often in a series of stages. There are three main components of this relapse process.
1. Emotional turmoil
The first stage of relapse begins with some type of emotional component. It may be a negative experience, anxiousness, or anger. Some people start to have trouble sleeping or eating well. This often is accompanied by limited access to their support system. Most people in this stage don’t recognize what’s happening because they haven’t yet thought about using drugs or alcohol again. Still, getting help when frustrations are high can help to prevent relapse.
2. Mental anguish
The second stage feels like an internal struggle. A person weighs the risks of using with the benefits they perceive it will bring. Because addiction is a chronic condition, this type of back-and-forth mental process happens often. It’s never going to go away fully. The difference here is that the thoughts of using again tend to outweigh the reasons not to. It’s hard to turn things around at this point. Once the mind determines that using is the “right” decision, there’s not much to stop a person from relapsing.
3. Physical relapse
During this final stage of relapse, a person has taken that step and used drugs or alcohol again. They break their sobriety. This often comes as mental anguish leads to more thoughts of using, causing cravings to build. Soon, a person feels unable to escape the demands of their mind to start using again. The rationalizations only continue after the person takes that first sip.
Unfortunately, for many people, that first sip is followed by more. Yet at any stage of the relapse process, a person can reach out for help and correct the situation.
Reasons Why Addiction Relapse Occurs
It’s hard to put a finger on a single thing that can lead to relapse. Often, it is a combination of events, experiences, or stressors that lead a person to this point. Trigger exposures may be involved. Triggers can include events such as:
- Financial stress
- Loss of a loved one
- Being around those who use
- Emotional turmoil from relationships
- Feeling lonely or isolated from family and friends
- Mental health complications like anxiety and depression
Whether it is a single event or a combination of situations, a person relapses when they do not have the right amount of support available.
Does Drug Addiction Treatment Work with Such a High Percentage of Relapse?
Yes, relapse rates tend to be high, and it’s heartbreaking to see yourself or a loved one relapse. But remember: relapse isn’t the end. It’s just a step in the journey. You can still get up, go back to treatment, and start again.
For addiction therapy to work long-term, people have to be able to recognize the warning signs of an impending relapse. Use the stages above as a guideline. Also, look for signs such as these:
- Increasing anxiety
- Thinking or talking about destructive behavior
- Isolation and pulling away from daily activities
- Strange or reckless behavior
- Not engaging in healthy habits such as exercise, eating well, and getting quality sleep
- Mood swings
Another key to watch for is a person who no longer is seeking out support from his or her mentors, friends, or family. Support is critical. When a person has the support and is working their plan, they are less likely to slip into relapse. That’s when addiction therapy is highly effective.
We Can Help
If you are struggling with a lack of support or watching a loved one battle the stages of relapse, now may be the best time to take action. The sooner you reach out for help, the more likely you are to avoid relapsing. Turn to your counselor. Request help from a new counseling team. Just take that step to call for help. You can reach out for guidance and support from DK Solutions Group at any time.