Addiction disorders, while they can be treated, cannot be completely cured. Those who undergo successful treatment are still prone to relapse: returning to a reliance on substances to feel normal again after a period of sobriety. Most everyone who has struggled from addiction is at risk of relapsing, however, there are many ways to prevent a return to substance abuse.
What Causes Relapse?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40%-60% of individuals who have suffered from addiction will experience a relapse. These statistics indicate that relapse is common, therefore relapsing should not be considered a failure. Those who suffer from addiction essentially rewire their brain to depend on the substance to feel normal — it is not easy to retrain the brain completely back to normal.
So, it is important to recognize that relapse is a normal part of recovery rather than a hindrance to it. When you have been dependent on a substance for so long, there is no set amount of rehabilitation that can “fix” it. Relapse is a natural reaction to extended withdrawal that is a stepping stone on the path to recovery.
Treatment’s Role in Relapse Prevention
Treatment centers aid detoxification — they supervise the removal of dangerous substances from the system. However, simply removing the substances from the system is not enough to prevent relapse. A mix of behavioral, individual and group therapy is necessary to help attack the underlying reasons why addiction began in the first place and train the brain to recognize triggers that may cause relapse.
Addressing negative thought patterns and training the individual to hold themselves accountable for their actions is extremely important for long term recovery.
Additionally, while treatment cannot cure addiction or relapse risk, the longer one attends treatment, the less likely they are to suffer relapse. This allows the patient more time to internalize new thought processes and what they have been taught in therapy in a controlled environment before they begin their return to daily life.
Much of this long term therapy also provides the patient with skills that will help them prevent relapse once out of treatment entirely.