Addiction is defined as a chronic disease of the brain that causes “impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response” (American Society of Addictive Medicine).
A Chronic, Relapsing Disease
The above definition only tells part of the story of this complicated disease. Addiction is not the type of disorder where someone goes to a treatment program and emerges “cured.” Addiction is a chronic disease where those who have been diagnosed have a chance of experiencing a relapse. Other diseases in this category include:
- High Blood Pressure
After an addicted person has been in a period of abstinence, there is a risk of a relapse. This is one of the characteristics of the disease.
Risk of Relapse for Addicts and Alcoholics
Having a certain amount of time “under one’s belt” doesn’t act as a shield to protect a person with a substance abuse problem from the risk of a relapse. It does, however, lower the risk of a relapse. According to a study that looked at close to 1,200 addicts, extended periods of abstinence were helpful in predicting a pattern in avoiding relapse over the long term. The research also provided the following interesting information:
- About one-third of people who have been sober for 12 months or less will be able to avoid a relapse.
- After one year of sobriety, less than 50 percent will relapse.
- At the five-year mark of sobriety, the likelihood of staying sober increases to more than 85 percent.
The statistics show that the risk of relapse drops over time, but never completely falls away. Someone in recovery from must practice vigilance and continue making mindful choices to avoid triggers that may encourage them to move down the path toward a relapse.
If a Relapse Occurs….
If a relapse happens, it’s important to reach out to get help quickly. There is no advantage to waiting.
Remember, don’t blame or shame a loved one. If a loved one has relapsed, resist the desire to blame them or say something hurtful about their behavior. Focus on helping them find treatment to get back on track.
Coming Back to Treatment After a Relapse
If you and your loved one have made a decision that an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment is the right choice after a relapse, you may have some questions or concerns about coming back into a program. Here are some things to know about returning to treatment.
- Treatment will begin at the beginning. Someone who has been through treatment before may think that they will be starting at a different level from other clients. This is not the case. After a relapse, your loved one will go into treatment and be evaluated by the treatment team. The treatment plan will be drafted as if your loved one had never stopped using chemicals.
- You’ll know what to expect. Because both you and your loved one have been through this before, you’ll have a chance to work on your issues at a deeper level. Your loved one will look at the reasons why he or she had the relapse and examine his or her coping skills as part of the overall treatment being offered.
It’s never too late to recover from a drug or alcohol relapse. This type of situation is part of the nature of the disease and requires professional treatment. Great Oaks Recovery offers clients a caring, supportive environment where they can focus on getting well, whether they have previously been in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction or not.