Why do Individuals Relapse?

Relapse might seem like the end of your recovery, but it actually can be a part of the recovery process. If you are in treatment for addiction or alcoholism, it is important to know that relapse and recovery are not mutually exclusive.


Addiction is a Brain Disease

One reason that relapses are not a failure or the end of your recovery process is that drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease because it reduces the brain’s capacity to experience motivation or pleasure, increases one’s response to stress, creates drug or alcohol cravings which result in painful feelings when cravings go unmet and reduce the functioning of the brain’s ability to control inhibitions, make decisions, and control behavior.

Being that addiction is a disease that impacts your brain’s ability to function, relapse can be a part of an ongoing recovery process.

Relapse Occurs in Nearly Half of All Cases

Relapse is not an uncommon part of recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse stats indicate 40-60% of individuals participating in treatment relapse at some point after completing treatment. This relapse rate is very similar and in line with the relapse rate of common physical ailments including asthma and high blood pressure. Both asthma and high blood pressure have relapse rates of 50% or higher depending on the study.

The odds of relapse after a treatment episode are fairly high, while this does not mean relapse is required, we hope it provides some comfort to anyone who has dealt with relapse in their recovery process.


Relapse Indicates You May Need to Modify Your Recovery Plan

Relapse is not a failure but rather relapse may indicate a need to modify your recovery or treatment plan. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a relapse is a warning of sorts that an individual wanting to continue their recovery efforts should have a conversation with a professional about adjusting their treatment or recovery plan or possibly even returning to a higher level of care. Creating a relapse prevention plan including things to avoid, coping skills, and a support network can be very effective in reducing relapse rates.


Recovery is the Process of Recreating Your Life

Recovery is the process of creating a sober life and shedding negative habits. This is no small feat and thus it is understandable that relapses may happen along the way. Addiction experts indicate that changing your lifestyle is the first and most important piece of the recovery process. This means changing people, places, and things as they say in the treatment industry. This involves avoiding people you used or drank with, avoiding places you used or drank at, and avoiding items that may be associated with use or consumption. Building a sober lifestyle will also require one to change their thought processes, reactionary nature, and learn coping skills.


For more information about relapse and some common triggers, please see our recent blog entitled Top 7 Relapse Triggers by clicking here.

If you or someone you know has relapsed or is struggling with substance abuse of any kind, we are here to help. Please call us at 855-698-3554 or directly at 201-663-2914 for a confidential consultation with one of our treatment specialists. If you prefer to communicate with us via email please click here or email us at outreach@harborwellnesscenter.org