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Why Addicts Relapse

Each year, thousands of Americans have their lives adversely affected by drugs and drug addiction. Put simply, relapse is the process by which a recovering user begins the cycle of use again. Understanding why addicts relapse, what can trigger a relapse, and how to effectively counter relapse can all leave one better prepared to handle the situation, should it arise. 

What is a Relapse?

By definition, a relapse is a deterioration in someone’s state of health after a temporary improvement. In layman’s terms, a relapse is the continuation of use after one has begun the rehabilitation, detoxification, or recovery process. A relapse can occur at any time during the recovery process, or even multiple times depending on the situation. 

An example of relapse would be a person seeking recovery from heroin. The user checks themselves into a facility and begins undergoing treatment. They stay for three weeks but then, suddenly, they leave in the middle of the night. Feeling the hardships of withdrawal, they then return to their old dealer and begin using again. This is a relapse. 

While common among all facets of addiction and drug recovery, relapse can be very tricky to deal with. While one not only resets their progress toward sobriety, they also run the risk of a relapse-induced overdose. Having this drug re-introduced suddenly can be a shock after a period of not using it. Understanding why addicts relapse as well as how to prevent relapse can make all the difference during recovery.

Stages of Relapse

There are three stages of relapse: mental, physical, and emotional. These stages can occur below the surface, as thoughts about drug or alcohol use. They can also be behaviors, such as seeking people or places associated with substance abuse.

Often, these stages occur in a linear fashion and the last stage is when a person begins using or drinking again. Therefore, knowing more about these stages can help a person notice when they are at risk of using substances again.

Stage 1: Emotional Relapse

The first stage is the emotional stage. During this stage, a person is not actively using or thinking about using drugs or alcohol. Instead, their emotions and actions may be setting them up to relapse. Some warning signs of emotional relapse may include the following:

  • Bottling up emotions
  • Poor eating and sleeping habits
  • Isolation
  • Skipping support group meetings
  • Mismanaged emotional problems
  • Mood swings

Stage 2: Mental Relapse

The second stage of relapse is the mental relapse stage. During this stage, a person has not yet physically relapsed, but their inner psychological battle has begun. Many people report serious cravings during this phase and most find themselves involved in a kind of internal dialogue in which part of them desires to relapse, as the other part wants to remain abstinent.

This stage often occurs when the emotional stage of relapse is ignored or handled inappropriately. Feelings of hopelessness and depression during this stage are often why addicts relapse.

Some signs of mental relapse may include things like:

  • Cravings/urges to use
  • Minimizing consequences
  • Glamourizing past use
  • Fantasizing about using
  • Lying 
  • Bargaining
  • Imagining use
  • Looking for opportunities to relapse

Stage 3: Physical Relapse

The third and final stage of relapse is the physical stage. Physical relapse means that a person has moved past the initial two stages of relapse and is now actively using. At this point, it becomes crucial to seek help in order to mitigate the damage done by relapsing. While the final stage of rehab is a setback, it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Most people will experience some form of relapse during their recovery journey and it is nothing to be embarrassed about. By understanding these stages of relapse, one can better protect both themselves and their loved ones from its dangers.

Signs of Relapse

When asking why addicts relapse, it is important to also know the signs that someone may be actively having a relapse. By recognizing these signs and symptoms of relapse, one may effectively be able to save a life.

Signs of relapse may include the following: 

  • Sudden changes in behavior and mood
  • Isolation
  • A false sense of control over misuse 
  • Withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities
  • Reacquainting with known users
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Intoxication
  • Loss of motor function
  • Slurred speech

Reasons Why Addicts Relapse

Why addicts relapse often depends on individual circumstances and situations. However, generally, there are some core common reasons that many of those who relapse share. Often addicts will feel that they have control over their addiction before the recovery process has run its course. This may lead to overconfidence resulting in relapse.

However, other users may relapse simply because they miss the drug or alcohol that they have been working to gain sobriety over. Whatever the case may be, it is important to remember that a relapse does not mean that a person cannot achieve long-lasting sobriety, just that they are experiencing a setback. 

What to Do if You Relapse

If you relapse, it is not too late. By finding effective treatment, one can give themselves the greatest chances of successful recovery, as well as lasting sobriety. By finding the appropriate support system, one increases their chances of success greatly. Having the right people at your back during your time of need can help to make all the difference. 

Entering a detox center is often the first step that a person should take. That way, they can go through withdrawal safely and reduce their risk of relapsing again. In addition, they will need aftercare services or enter rehab again. Some people might need to try something new in order to prevent a relapse after treatment. Options include things like medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and holistic therapy.

Find Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Relapse in Nashville, TN

Here at Detox Nashville, we are here to help you with every step during the recovery process. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, we are a fully functional luxury drug and alcohol detoxification center. Allow our highly professional and compassionate staff to give you the tools necessary to conquer your addiction once and for all. Contact us today to get back on track after a drug or alcohol relapse.

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