Many will say that relapse is a part of the nature of addiction but might add that it isn’t necessarily a part of everyone’s journey through recovery. The current working definition of addiction is that it is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disease. With rates of relapse after rehab so high, it is no wonder that the term relapsing is found within the definition of addiction.
Statistics: A Grim Picture
Drug and alcohol rehab statistics show that the percentage of people who will relapse after rehab and even a period of some recovery ranges from 50% to 90%. This is a frightening statistic and it is often used as justification for those who wish to carry on with their addiction. What these figures hide is that there are things that the individual can do to greatly increase their chances of sustained sobriety. Those people who are serious about aftercare greatly increase their chances of success. It is most often those who are not adequately supported in recovery that end up returning to their addiction.
Relapse as a Normal Part of Recovery
Unfortunately, the statistics show that most people do not manage to quit their addiction with their first attempt. They may try and fail a number of times before they manage to secure lasting sobriety. This leads to the conclusion that relapse is a normal part of recovery. While there seems to be some truth in this claim, it is often understood to mean that relapse is a needed element of recovery. This is certainly not the case, and there are plenty of people who do manage to recover from their addiction with their first serious effort. There is absolutely no advantage in continuously relapsing and each time the individual returns to alcohol and drugs they are taking a serious risk.
Dangers of Relapse
There is no guarantee that they will ever be able to stop again; their relapse may turn out to be a death sentence.
Over time the life of the addict tends to deteriorate. This means that when people relapse they may be going back to a life that is even worse than before. This is what is meant by progressive in the current working definition of addiction.
Relapse may make it harder to achieve sobriety in the future. This is because the individual loses belief in their ability to stay sober and this saps their motivation.
With a relapse after rehab, the person may fail to realize that the problem wasn’t with recovery but with their approach to it.
Some individuals become extremely depressed to find themselves back in the midst of addiction. Some may even be tempted to take their own life as a result.
Relapse and Length of Recovery Time
There is strong indication that the risk of relapse is considerably reduced for those who maintain abstinence for at least five years. However, there are reports of relapses after 5 years or more of continuous abstinence. One study found that 25% of a large sample of opiate users relapsed after 15 years of abstinence, suggesting that although risk of relapse diminishes over time, it still remains a reality.
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