Drug Relapse

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You built your whole world around the drugs that calm you and make you feel better. You know that they are hurting you. From what the doctor said, you know that you need stop or your liver is going to kill you before you have a chance to grow old. The cocaine that you love so much is messing with your heart as well, and he said that it may be permanent. This is your wakeup call, and you are sad at the fact that you need to stop using. You like the way you feel.

What is a relapse?

You did not realize that you would not only be giving up the happy, sedated, or motivated feelings that the drugs gave you, but that you would have to give up your whole world. There is solace in the fact that you may be able to reestablish bonds with family members and friends that you really miss. But … none of them use drugs and once in a while wouldn’t hurt, right? You should probably keep your relations in the drug circles just in case. This is the thinking that leads to relapse. The chemical changes in the brain have taken away the rationality of the addict, so they do not even realize that they are behaving in illogical ways.

A relapse is when someone misses their old world, can no longer fight the cravings, and they start using drugs after a period of sobriety. Most recovering addicts will have one or more relapses in their journey, and it is considered part of the process. There are two types of relapses:

Either way, a relapse is simply a mistake and should be viewed as such. It is important to get back into rehab or on the path of sobriety as soon as possible. Too many users beat themselves up and think that they are a failure, leading to continued drug use. The drugs have already diminished their self-esteem and a slip up only adds to that lack of confidence. The focus is to minimize the chances of relapse and accept them when they happen.

How does a relapse happen?

One of the biggest risks of someone relapsing is that their tolerance has lowered. They may go back to using at the same dosage as when they quit, and their bodies are not able to handle that amount anymore, so they overdose. An overdose is defined as the event when a drug causes harmful and harsh symptoms or death. Someone who has never used drugs may not be able to grasp the enormity of trying everything in their power to “just say no”. Have you ever tried to break a habit? Quit biting your nails, quitting swearing so much, eating only healthy foods...it was difficult, wasn’t it? Now, add in the element of that product changing your brain chemistry to MAKE you think you cannot live without it. However, no one looks down on you or questions your ability to thrive in life if you have another bowl of caramel corn.

Relapse is something that starts to gradually occur for weeks or months before actually physically consuming it. It may start with a trigger causing anxiety. Dealing with the stress in a healthy manner can help prevent relapse. It usually happens in three stages:

Learning how relapses happen and recognizing the signs leading up to them can help prevent their manifestation. The previous addict can change their behaviors and veer in another direction.

What is the best way to handle a relapse?

People who relapse generally feel ashamed and guilty, which are difficult emotions to process even for a someone in a stable mental state. They must either follow the plan that they have in place or follow these steps if they have used drugs again.

The sooner you get back to your life without drugs, the sooner you can get back on track. Deciding if you should go back to your outpatient drug rehab is a different answer for everyone. It may be time to consider inpatient drug treatment if relapse is an ongoing issue for you. If someone has slid so far that they are using regularly again, it seems more of a clear-cut answer; however, it is based on the severity of the addiction and the drug of choice. It is easier to resume your path to sobriety if you realize your mistake quickly and go back to the behaviors that you had learned to help you stay sober. Relapse is one of the parts of recovery that many people do not consider until it happens to them. Family and friends who become educated on addiction can better help their loved ones. Relapse is not something to feel bad about, it is just another part of the learning process.