Relapse may be the biggest threat of all to lasting sobriety. Even with excellent addiction treatment or rehab, patients can relapse. While anyone is potentially susceptible to relapse, there are a handful of factors that increase the likelihood. Identifying and addressing them can play a role in avoiding relapse and maintaining sobriety for a lifetime.
Users of Certain Substances
Relapse can occur because of countless factors. One of the most important is the kind of substance that patients were addicted to. Some drugs are simply more addictive than others. As a result, it is harder to get sober and stay sober after struggling with certain addictions.
Among methamphetamine addicts, for example, relapse rates may be as high as 88 percent. For heroin users, that number is closer to 80 percent. Cocaine addicts, on the other hand, only relapse around 23 percent of the time.
Clearly, the kind of substance being used plays a significant role in the likelihood of relapse. Even so, individuals can avoid relapse by carefully preparing for that risk.
Those Without a Support System
No person can be strong, confident and sure 100 percent of the time. Thankfully, a support system can be the emergency safety net when individuals are feeling weak or temptation is too strong. A support system can come in many varieties. Family members, friends, therapists, mentors or 12 step group attendees can all be part of an ongoing support system.
The objective of a support system is to remind individuals of why sobriety is so important. When cravings are particularly strong, it helps to know that someone out there truly cares and is focused on recovery. During addiction treatment, there should be a focus on creating a stable and supportive system, but only engage those who are up to this important task.
Patients With Untreated Mental Illness
The link between mental illness and addiction is clear. During addiction treatment, those with any mental health conditions should be the recipients of dual diagnosis treatment. This treats both mental health problems and addiction at the same time.
Unfortunately, some individuals complete a detox but don’t get the in-depth mental health care that should also be a priority. If mental illness is left untreated, the risk of relapse will skyrocket. This is often because those who struggle with conditions like depression or bipolar disorder try to self-medicate. Of course, using more dangerous substances is not the answer.
Ineffective Stress Management
By some accounts, stress is the number one cause of addiction relapse. Stress can come in many forms, and that stress can impact people differently. Just a few of the most common stressors could include financial trouble, workplace problems, family struggles, broken relationships or low self-confidence.
Stress is normal, and it is a part of every person’s life. Those who are unable to deal appropriately with stress, however, are also far more likely to relapse.
That’s why it is so critical to create coping mechanisms. This is often done in rehab. Patients can establish the actions that help them relieve stress in a healthy way. Some examples might include exercise, talking on the phone to a good friend or cooking a delicious meal from scratch.
Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing for the past. Not all nostalgia is bad, but it can be problematic for those recovering from an addiction. Months or years into sobriety, individuals might look back at their time abusing drugs and alcohol as a fun experience. Removed from the side effects, the blur of nostalgia can make it seem appealing.
This nostalgia, unfortunately, has the potential to lead to relapse. It’s critical to remember that while there may have been a handful of appealing elements to using drugs or alcohol, there was also a long, long list of negatives. If nostalgia takes over, listing out the downsides of addiction may be helpful.
Falling Victim to the Moderation Theory
Addiction is an illness. In order to avoid a relapse of the illness, individuals have to abstain from consumption entirely. Even a small, one-time use can reignite changes to brain chemistry and restart a cycle of intense cravings. It is vital that abstinence from the substance is practiced.
Contrary to this evidence-based approach is a kind of bargaining that some patients embrace. Known as the moderation theory, it is the idea that using an addictive substance one more time will be okay. This is especially common with alcohol.
For the record, this is ultimately never beneficial. It has the potential to derail years of effort, and it can quickly lead to a complete relapse.
Those most susceptible to relapse are often those who either didn’t attend rehab or who had ineffective rehab treatment. Not all rehab programs are the same. Unfortunately, some programs may come up short. In addition, some patients believe that detox is sufficient treatment for addiction.
Detox is a critical part of recovery. While it helps to achieve that initial sobriety, it doesn’t provide the tools or resources to maintain sobriety. As a result, some people who complete a standalone detox program and then rush back to everyday life aren’t prepared. This can lead to relapse, because the underlying issues of addictive behavior were never truly addressed.
Environment Filled With Temptation
Even when individuals do everything right, temptations will still exist. Part of preparing for relapse risk is knowing how to react around temptations. Even with that in mind, certain environments are simply too filled with temptation. People who place themselves in difficult environments are more likely to relapse.
Think of a person addicted to alcohol. They may be in certain situations, such as family dinners or weddings, where alcohol is around. This is normal, and must be managed. However, deciding to work in a bar is an example of purposefully being placed in a temptation-rich atmosphere.
There isn’t always rhyme or reason to relapse. Similarly to addiction, it can impact all types of people. Nonetheless, the factors listed above help point to those individuals who are going to be most susceptible to the risk of relapse.