Recovery and Relapse: Does Relapse Always Happen?

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Relapse does have a high potential for occurrence in individuals recovering from addiction. Like with other chronic diseases, there is always the possibility that a person may relapse back to their addictive behavior. However, this does not mean relapse is guaranteed to occur.

Relapse Defined

In most cases, relapse is defined as any type of setback in a person’s recovery from an illness or disease (in this case, addiction). However, for the purposes of this explanation, the term will be defined as the return (however brief) to addictive behavior and/or drug abuse. While setbacks of one type or another kind are inevitable when a person tries to turn their life around, there is no way to know for sure whether or not the individual will return to this behavior at any given point.

The Truth About Relapse

Many individuals will tell you that you can absolutely avoid the chance of relapsing back to drug abuse if you follow a number of specific steps. Others may tell you that there is no way to avoid relapse and that you should always be ready for the worst. It is important to remember that neither of these statements are true.

According to the NIDA, “Relapse rates for addiction resemble those of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.” Therefore, it is just as possible for someone to return to addictive behavior, even when they have begun to recover, as it is for someone to experience similar results with one of these other diseases. Because addiction is a chronic disease, it means that there is always a chance that relapses may occur. However, this does not necessarily mean that it will.

Can Addiction Be Cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for addiction. Instead, a person who attempts to change addictive behavior by receiving treatment and altering their lifestyle for the better is said to be in recovery. “SAMHSA has established a working definition of recovery that defines recovery as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Relapse may occur during a person’s recovery process. In fact, it is likely that it will happen. However, it is incorrect to say that it always happens. Some individuals are able to avoid relapse their entire recoveries (even for the rest of their lives), but more often, former addicts do experience it at some point. However, there are ways to help prevent the possibility of relapse.

Avoiding Relapse

Below are some possible ways to help yourself avoid relapse.

  • Attend addiction treatment and do so for as long as necessary.
  • Get your friends and family members involved in your recovery.
  • Talk to your doctor about your options and the best ways to stay mentally and physically healthy during your recovery.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Spend time with others or out helping your community.
  • Remove negative influences and people from your life.
  • Attend support group meetings or counseling.
  • Live in a safe, secure place where you will not consistently tempted to abuse drugs or engage in other addictive behaviors.

Remember: it is possible to minimize your chances of relapse. Though it is likely, it does not always need to happen during addiction recovery.