Contributors to Chronic Relapse

A Despite the availability of a wide variety of treatment options, the problem of relapse remains the major challenge to achieving sustained abstinence from drugs or alcohol. A relapse may occur at any time after treatment for the drug abuse issue and may occur many times, leading to a repeated cycle of use and abstinence. This is referred to as “chronic relapse.” Therefore, understanding chronic relapse is a necessary component of successful treatment for any addictive substance.

Relapse in drug and alcohol addiction is considered to be a complex phenomenon that is affected by many factors including: neurobiological, behavioral, individual, environmental, social and cultural variables. An understanding of relapse and its implications for treatment interventions are necessary. However, the fact of the matter is that many professionals do not know what the actual contributors to chronic relapse are. What is known is that contributing factors for relapse vary from individual to individual. What is also clear is that further testing must be done on this topic in order to obtain any factual evidence as it may relate to chronic relapse.

The potential for relapse is part of the chronic disease that is substance abuse. Just as people with chronic medical conditions must adjust their lifestyles, so do those individuals who are suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Individuals must assume responsibility for managing their own care and must adjust their lifestyles accordingly. If they do not, relapse may occur.

One of the factors that have been proven to contribute to chronic relapse includes gender. According to recent reports, women are less than likely to relapse than men are in part because they are more likely to seek drug rehab treatment in the first place. Women are also less likely to relapse due to their willingness to participate and engage in group counseling sessions.

Aftercare in the rehabilitation process also plays a critical role in long-term recovery. It is has been proven that individuals who regularly attend some sort of aftercare program remain completely abstinent from drug or alcohol use, compared to 40% of patients who attend aftercare sessions sporadically.

In order to avoid chronic relapse, the addict must adhere to the lifestyle options discussed in their addiction recovery program. Whether this means the individual must refrain from attending certain social functions or stop hanging around certain individuals who tend to negatively influence the addict, failure to adhere to their treatment recovery program could lead to chronic relapse. If the addict’s family is not supportive and fails to abide by the rules/requirements of the after-care treatment plan (such as eliminating alcohol from family social functions) than the individual is most likely to suffer from chronic relapse. If the individual’s support mechanism fails to provide encouragement and emotional support, the individual may also relapse (One drink won’t kill them.). Also, if there are individuals within the support system who have a substance abuse issue themselves that has not been addressed, chronic relapse is likely.

Ultimately, as long as the individual with an addiction adheres to their treatment plan by attending group meetings or addiction counseling sessions and by avoiding social situations where the substance may be present, the individual can and will succeed in preventing relapse.

With the continued support of their family, friends, co-workers and other professionals, complete abstinence is possible.