RELAPSE: THE BIG ENEMY
Relapse is the great fear of the alcoholic or drug addict because relapse can often sneak up on the individual without warning – or at least that what it feels like from the user’s perspective. The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that 40-60% of people going through treatment also go through relapses. Either less than half or more than half of individuals struggling with addiction and seeking treatment will experience a relapse. Another way to state this is that about half of the people struggling with addiction will also have to struggle with what they interpret as a failure to overcome their addiction.
However, the biggest misunderstanding is that relapsing is a failure on the part of the individual. This presumption is false because the statistics above that state that half of the addicts go through relapse show that relapse is to be expected during treatment. It takes time for the human body and brain to adjust to the sudden change in habit, and drug or alcohol use is a habit when done for a certain period of time. Addiction is considered by many to be a disease because the phenomena of addiction have been shown to affect the brain in various ways like other diseases do.
There are several stories about users going in for their drug or alcohol addiction treatment and they come out clean for ten months or a year, but then a stroll down the old neighborhood or a mention of the drug by some old friends triggers cravings. Everything starts flooding back, the memories of using the substance are powerful, and relapse occurs. Cravings are powerful, intense desires to use the substance again, either to re-experience the pleasure once felt or to relieve the painful withdrawal symptoms. Triggers are things that remind the individual of their previous drug use and can range from objects to people and places. Stressors like a long day or things going wrong can also serve as triggers.
The scary thing about relapse is the fact that neutral things can become triggers for drug use. Getting a job while raising a family is a good thing for the user, but can turn bad if the stress builds up too much and triggers a relapse as a means to escape the stress. Many researchers advise former addicts to avoid going back to their old lives, which includes old friends that encouraged drug use and places where the drug was used, which can sometimes be the individual’s own house. They often advise the user to find a new place to live and make friends with people who discourage drug use because triggers are powerful and can bring the individual right back down to where they were before they sought and paid for treatment.
Isolation often leads to relapse because the individual has time to ruminate and think about different things, one of which may be a thought to take the drug again. The mind is tricky and can lead an individual to believe that because they overcame their addiction, they can handle just one hit. One hit is all it takes to start the addiction cycle again. If you or anyone else you know is stuck in the cycle, consider visiting a treatment center. Asana Recovery offers detox and residential rehabilitation with programs for therapy and counseling. Call 949-438-4504 to learn more about their treatment services.