Relapse: Why It Happens & How to Prevent It
A quick look at drug addiction statistics can be disheartening. The relapse rate among addicts after treatment is high. Relapse happens when an addict goes back to drinking or using drugs after a period of sobriety. A scary aspect of addiction is that it is progressive, meaning that a return to using can result in more serious abuse and consequences than the last time.
Why is relapse so common? It is important to understand that, while relapse is not a necessary part of recovery, it is normal — it should not be seen as a failure. Just like any other disease, there can be recurrences. One of the many problems that many addicts face is guilt and shame. These feelings can keep someone from reaching out and getting help after a relapse.
There are a variety of reasons relapse can happen. Often, people leave treatment with the best of intentions, but, when confronted with old friends or family members who use, they fall back into old patterns of behavior. Uncomfortable feelings of fear, anger, anxiety or depression can also result in relapse if the person has not developed tools to cope with these emotions in a healthy way. Remember, for many addicts, drugs and alcohol are a form of self-medication. If the habit of using is not replaced with other habits, using will continue to feel like the solution to life’s challenges.
Part of recovery is learning how to cope with difficult situations, emotions and conflict without using. Treatment can help by uncovering the issues contributing to addiction, and teaching tools and strategies that can be used in these situations.