Exploring the Nature of Addiction

Exploring the Nature of Addiction – Why Do People Relapse and What Can Be Done About It?

Relapse. It’s not a word anyone wants to hear associated with a drug or alcohol recovery journey. Getting clean and making it through those first months of cold sobriety is hard work, and falling back into the old ways can be devastating both for addicts and their support systems. Relapse can make an individual in recovery feel like giving up under the weight of their addiction. Relapse can also make an addict’s loved ones feel hopeless and helpless.

Because relapse into drugs or alcohol is a dangerous and often fatal setback, the goal is obviously, always long-term sobriety. But, we’re here to tell you to never give up, because while relapse is never ideal, it is sometimes part of a longer recovery journey.

“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again.” -Frederick Maryat


Addiction is a disease – a condition that is less cured than it is managed, and as such, there is evidence to suggest that relapse is sometimes simply a part of the recovery process. There is also evidence that indicates that if you can reach certain milestones, the chance of relapse goes down exponentially. In the event of a relapse, it’s important not to feel shame and/or powerlessness, because these feelings only serve to feed the unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns.



So, Why Do People Relapse?

According to drugabuse.gov, drug addiction is not a fix it and forget it illness like appendicitis or a broken bone. Addiction is a chronic disease similar to heart disease or asthma. This means, it’s never really cured. Rather it must be managed forever. And just like other chronic diseases like heart disease – which is related to diet — the cause of addiction is often found in patient behavior, and as anyone who has ever gone on a diet or tried to implemented a new exercise routine knows, making long term changes to behaviors can be a process that is very much two steps forward, one step back.

Luckily, more and more attention and research are now being devoted to developing methods that address the root causes and thinking patterns that lead to relapse. Dual diagnosis, for example, is one method that is gaining traction, and it is one that we at New Origins recognize and employ whenever necessary.


What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is a recovery method that recognizes that substance abuse patients may have another psychiatric disorder that heavily influences their choices and plays a direct role in recovery. The psychiatric disorder must be treated in tandem with the addiction in order to achieve long-term recovery. Integrated treatment plans seek to address both the psychiatric issue and addiction issues concurrently.

A paper published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, titled “Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses”, diagnoses addiction itself as a mental illness, and states that people diagnosed with mood, anxiety and antisocial personality disorders are nearly two times more likely to suffer from substance abuse compared to people without these disorders. This is why, in order to achieve the best possible outcome, when evaluating rehabs and detox centers it’s important to note whether they offer dual diagnosis care.


Is There a Point Where the Danger of Relapse Goes Down?

According to a study, which tracked 1,200 addicts over the course of eight years, the longer you are able to maintain sobriety, the lower the chance of relapse. This means that if you can hit certain milestones, your chances of remaining drug and/or alcohol free go up exponentially.

What are the sobriety milestones? The study indicates that if you can make it one year in recovery, you have a 50% chance of relapse, but if you can make it to five years, your chance of relapse goes down to less than 15%. There are no guarantees, but this study indicates that the further away an individual gets from their using days, the higher likelihood they’ll be able to maintain sobriety for the long term.



Ways to Avoid Relapse

There are a number of things you can do to aid your own recovery and avoid relapse. One of them is to avoid relapse-inducing situations, including people, places and situations that serve as triggers for using.

Back in November, we published an article on craving and relapse prevention, in which we provide tips for dealing with cravings and avoiding trigger situations. We hope it will provide you with further insights into the recovery process.


Read This Next: The Phenomenon of Craving and Ways to Combat Relapse


New Origins provides ongoing recovery services for single and dual diagnosis patients. Call today to find out more: 909-335-2804


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