Drug addiction is classified as a chronic disease, and some of the symptoms of the disease include a lack of control over the use of substances and intense cravings for them. People who are characterized as having a drug addiction will continue using drugs even in the face of negative outcomes and consequences.
Not every person who abuses drugs becomes addicted, however.
Addiction can occur with alcohol, illegal drugs and even with prescription drugs, and it’s something that affects millions of people.
Once someone seeks treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, they’re considered to be in the recovery phase. Since addiction is defined as a chronic disease, they’re not necessarily cured when they’re sober, but instead, they’re managing their disease and its symptoms.
A relapse is something that occurs when a person who has gone through treatment and has been in recovery goes back to using, but it’s more complicated than this.
Modern addiction science views relapse as not a single event where a person goes back to using, but instead, it’s defined as the setbacks along the road to recovery. So rather than seeing relapse as a failure, addiction professionals are starting to see that it’s a part of the process to recover from addiction.
A relapse isn’t uncommon, and this is because of the ways drug abuse changes the brain of the user. It’s incredibly difficult for them to resist cravings for the substance or substances they’re addicted to, and people are at risk for a relapse for years following their treatment.
In previous years, as there was still a lot of research being done on addiction, relapse was seen somewhat like going into remission with cancer. Now, however, there’s more of a push for it to be viewed as part of the process, as was touched on above, although it’s a part that addicts should try to avoid.
When someone goes to treatment for drug addiction, their team will often prepare them for the risk of relapse, and they will try to highlight the signs that could indicate you’re moving toward that, but it remains incredibly frightening no matter how prepared an addict might be in theory.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that people who are recovering from addiction will often have at least one relapse.