3 Things You Might Not Know About Addiction Relapse

March 25, 2019

Addiction relapses do not signify that a person is weak, a failure or a lost cause.

Like any other disease, addiction can be something that may require multiple treatments and an individualised approach to recovery – not one solution fits all.

Read on to discover three things you might not know about relapsing during addiction recovery, and find out how you can contribute to helping in the fight against addiction.

1. Relapse Occurs in 3 Stages

The tendency for relapse to occur is a normal part of the recovery process and can happen in a gradual process. Just like symptoms of a disease, relapse symptoms come in stages: emotional, mental and physical.

In the emotional phase of relapse, you may see denial, irritability, isolation and social withdrawal taking place in a recovering addict. These emotions rise as a result of being in a state free of substance use – and even though somebody may not think about using, these strong feelings can often be the trigger for addiction relapse.

With mental relapse, recovering addicts are battling an internal conflict. They may already be thinking about using, and putting a plan in place for how or when to start using. On the other hand, they are also deliberating whether to continue on the path to recovery. Certain factors such as friendship groups, home environment and stress levels will also contribute to the decision made on whether to start using again or not.addiction relapse - man smoking

Finally, physical relapse is the state in which a recovering addict begins to use their formally abused substance. It is important to note that this phase does not necessarily mean a person will start to use that substance in an uncontrolled manner, however past behaviour does pose as a higher risk.

2. You Can Relapse on Substances Other Than the Drug of Choice

An addiction relapse takes place once an addict in recovery reverts to the same manner of destructive thoughts, behaviours and patterns, and are not utilising any coping methods used in recovery.

An addict who switches cocaine for alcohol for example, is simply substituting one dysfunctional method of coping for another, and has still relapsed into traditional behavioural patterns. People most often relapse in cases of high stress or high risk situations, and can not or do not utilise coping methods learned in recovery.

3. Overdose Risk is Increased During Relapse

When somebody uses a substance over an extended period of time, they develop a tolerance to it. Whether it’s alcohol or illicit drugs or abused prescription medication, addicts find they need to use a larger amount of their chosen substance to get the desired effect. Once a person stops using, their body adjusts accordingly and begins to clear out the toxic substances.

During addiction relapse, a former user may overestimate how much of a certain substance their body can handle. Combined with a decreased tolerance level, this can lead to overdose. Overdose after a period of non-use can also be an unintended consequence of relapse, such as using after a prison stint or skipping and re-starting medication.

At the 2019 Australian & New Zealand Addiction Conference, we play host to a range of experts in addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.

If you’re a professional looking to increase your knowledge of recovery strategies and better serve those in need, this is the perfect learning opportunity for you. Find out more – view the program here.

3 Things You Might Not Know About Addiction Relapse


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