Relapse from Drugs

Drug addiction is scary and overwhelming, but when someone finally receives help for their addiction, it can create a sense of freedom both for the addict and their loved ones. Despite the fact that treatment is so valuable, and often the only way an addict can stop using drugs, once you leave treatment it doesn’t mean you’re done dealing with addiction in most cases.

Relapse is a part of addiction for so many people, and it doesn’t mean treatment has failed, but that doesn’t make it any less daunting to face.

The following provides an overview of what to know about a relapse from drugs.

Relapse from Drugs
First and foremost, what’s defined as a relapse from drugs?

In the simplest terms a relapse is when you’ve abstained from drugs or alcohol for a period of time, and following that sobriety, you use again. Within more modern concepts of addiction theories, however, there’s a bit more to a relapse than that.

A lot of addiction specialists now like to differentiate between a slip-up and a full-blown relapse. A slip-up could mean that you use drugs one time, but that’s it, and you go back to sobriety. A relapse tends to be a more involved situation where you start slipping into old patterns and habits. Relapsing on drugs can be difficult to deal with because in a lot of situations a relapse is worse than the initial addiction.

This can happen because when you relapse you may feel like a failure, or you may feel shame or guilt. This can cause you to spiral further downward, but a relapse isn’t uncommon, and it doesn’t mean you can’t get back on track with your sobriety.

A healthier way to think about a relapse is that instead of a failure, it’s a learning opportunity about how to best manage your life as a sober person.

A relapse is often divided into three different stages, which are emotional, mental and physical.

During an emotional relapse, a person will not necessarily be thinking that they want to use drugs, but they might start heading toward familiar old patterns of addiction. Once an addict reaches the mental relapse stage, they’re actively thinking about wanting to use again, and they may be going back in forth in their mind.

The final stage is an actual physical relapse, and this can last for months in some people, although it may be shorter or longer in others.

There are often some signs of a drug relapse that can be spotted. You may see the signs of relapse in yourself, or others may spot them in you.

If you start to feel depressed, anxious or irritable, or you are having destructive thoughts, you might want to do something to strengthen your resolve to stay sober.

If your loved one is an addict and you’re noticing mood swings, isolation, or going back to old relationships or places, it could be time to speak with them and see if a relapse could be coming.

Recovering drug addicts will also learn a lot about triggers when they’re in treatment. Triggers are those scenarios that could make a person more likely to start using drugs again, such as being in a stressful environment or having relationship problems.

Being aware of things like signs of a relapse and potential triggers can go a long way toward helping you prevent a drug relapse.

The first six months of your recovery is the period you’re most likely to relapse, and the vast majority of all relapses occur during this time.

During the first six months of your recovery, make sure that you are following your aftercare treatment plan, avoiding triggers as much as possible, and that you have a strong support system. Your aftercare treatment plan likely includes participation in a 12-step program, so it’s essential to make sure you’re actively involved in this as well.

You will have to learn new coping mechanisms and ways to deal with stress and emotions, including not just negative ones but also positive ones. There’s a lot of lifestyle changes you’ll have to make to lower your risk of relapsing.

Sometimes, however, no matter how hard you work, you may relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that relapse rates range anywhere from 40 to 60 percent in people who are in recovery.

So what do you do if this happens?

You should start looking at what led to the relapse so that you can use this as a foundational building block to avoid that in the future. If you feel your relapse was an isolated situation, you may be able to strengthen your commitment to a 12-step program and your recovery, but if your relapse was a true pattern of drug abuse, you might need to go back into a treatment program.

For people who have experienced a relapse from drugs, sometimes cognitive behavioral therapy can be especially useful since it helps addicts work on how to change their thinking and their behavior and move toward healthier ways of doing things.

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