Kreed Kleinkopf
July 9, 2019

Why Does Someone Relapse On Drugs or Alcohol?

A relapse into abusing drugs and alcohol is a very normal part of most people’s recovery from their substance use disorder. If you have completed a successful addiction treatment program, experienced a period of sobriety, and then fell into a full-blown relapse, please be aware that you are not alone. Experiencing a relapse is not uncommon. Most psychiatric doctors and other professionals in the field of addiction treatment will tell you that relapsing is a normal part of most patient’s recovery efforts. If your cravings and thought patterns turn into using drugs or alcohol again, it does not mean that you have failed at recovery. It is essential for you to maintain hope, as there are many resources available to help you. It is your reaction to the event of a relapse that is critical to your end goal of long-term sobriety. Express forgiveness to yourself or your loved one who may have recently relapsed. Learning from your mistakes is the best way to ultimately heal, as the path to sobriety is a long and difficult one. We know because we’ve been there.

Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

How common is a relapse for people who go through a drug rehab program?

It is estimated that 40-60 percent of people who maintain sobriety through rehab, treatment, and recovery will relapse into heavy use, while 70-90 percent will relapse and use again at least once. In the medical field, a relapse used to be treated as an uncommon thing, but this has largely changed due to the advances in behavioral science and addiction therapy. Sadly, many addicts are stigmatized by society as hopeless drug fiends or treated with the perception that they are a bad person for their substance use. Many of us here in the addiction treatment industry are advocating a different perspective. With addiction being a curable disease, you could compare it to the relapse rates of people with other medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or asthma. The rate of relapse into these common medical diseases is close to the same as for people with a substance abuse disorder. Treating this as a medical condition will help erase the stigma associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

As we have seen the overdose epidemic explode in the United States, it is important for us to begin treating this as a serious medical condition, not a criminal activity reserved only for the ‘bad people’ in society. As you are reading this now, most of us know someone dearly who has struggled with some form of substance abuse. While we look to help those closest to us, deep down inside we know there is still a good person underneath the surface of their drug or alcohol addiction.

It is estimated that nearly 72,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in 2017. That’s nearly 200 people who die, each and every day. – Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Warning: your drug tolerance levels will change. Relapsing is an extremely dangerous situation.

It is extremely important to note here that many who relapse will overdose their first time because they think they can do as much of the drug as they had been doing before they went through detox and a period of sobriety. Simply put, your body cannot handle as large an amount of the drug, even though they had built up a tolerance over their period of substance abuse. Your tolerance has changed through recovery and you might not be able to handle the “usual dose” as you have in the past and you could immediately die. We cannot stress this enough, so please keep this in mind throughout your post-recovery stage as most people do not plan to have a relapse.

Learn more about relapse prevention and the specific relapse triggers to avoid from Riverside, California drug rehab:


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