Relapsing On Drugs | How Not To Relapse On Drugs

The journey to recovery is different for each individual. The decision to find assistance or treatment for drug and alcohol abuse takes courage and commitment, and it isn’t always smooth sailing. Some aspects of recovery are painful or intimidating, and others can be downright scary. One of the terrifying aspects of overcoming the disease of addiction is facing the possibility of relapse. Those working through treatment programs recognize the realities of sobriety, and many are determined to understand the issues surrounding relapsing on drugs.

This may be surprising, but for many people, relapsing on drugs is part of the recovery process. The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing disease. It estimates that roughly 40 to 60% of people who’ve gone through substance abuse treatment will experience some kind of relapse. It’s crucial to recognize that relapse does not suggest failure. Drug and alcohol treatment programs should be tailored to each individual, and adjustments will need to be made to continue to deliver progress. We’re providing a few tips on how not to relapse on drugs below.

AspenRidge Recovery is a leading Colorado addiction recovery center. We support clients during a critical time. As a certified treatment center, we invest time in rebuilding confidence and skills to allow you the freedom to find hope without substance dependency. Learn more about our treatment options by calling 855-281-5588.

How To Avoid Drug Relapse

Relapsing On Drugs

Recovery is never an easy journey. Finding sobriety takes time and it’s never a straightforward process. There are many obstacles and factors to consider. Relapsing on drugs, while disheartening, can be one of the many obstacles you’ll face. Discovering that sobriety, once achieved, may not last forever may feel like the ultimate letdown and another reason to continue using. However, if you’re aiming for long-term sobriety, these setbacks are sometimes necessary to help you break free from continuous use. After all, addiction didn’t occur over night and, thus, getting sober will not happen immediately.

A relapse is when a person returns to using drugs or alcohol after a period of sobriety. While a lapse is a brief “slip” where a person may drink or use, but then immediately stop again, a relapse is when a person makes a full blown return to drinking or using drugs. Many people recovering from addiction face a consistently high risk of relapse because chronic substance use can result in certain structural and functional brain alterations that persist well beyond the period that sobriety was first obtained. Relapsing on drugs is usually categorized in the following ways:

  • Traditional Relapse – occurs when someone makes a conscious decision to return to alcohol or drug use
  • Freelapse – occurs when relapse is accidental or when a person unintentionally uses drugs or alcohol

At times, relapsing on drugs begins in phases either weeks or months before. Certain thoughts, feelings, and events may triggers cravings and urges for substance abuse and if not properly addressed, may increase the risks of relapsing.

Physical Impacts of Drugs

Scientific-based studies supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse have shown that drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters. Drugs such as marijuana and heroin possess chemical makeup that activates neurons. Other drugs like amphetamine and cocaine prevent the normal recycling of brain chemicals, which in turn interferes with transporters.

All this to say that, when misusing drugs and alcohol, the brain is no longer operating according to normal functionality. These abnormalities can drive compulsive behavior, marking the chronic disease of addiction that many drug users experience. Having uncontrollable urges to continue using is not a patient’s fault.

Addiction Relapse Rates

Addiction relapse rates are staggering, but are also a normal part of the process during recovery. In fact, stages in recovery suggest that everyone will similarly move through treatment. This is not a viable option as everyone progresses and regresses differently. However, some main talking points regarding the recovery process can help shed light on how to avoid drug relapse.

Recent statistics show that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within the year following treatment. Additionally, researchers estimate that more than two-thirds of individuals in recovery relapse within weeks to months beginning treatment. Without a relapse prevention plan, most people will be unsuccessful in their attempts to remain sober.

During the detoxification process, when drugs or alcohol are clearing the physical body, the brain has not yet reversed the mind-altering aspects of substance misuse. As a result, the recovering brain will always be more susceptible to a craving, which in turn activates the compulsion to use. Triggers will need to be considered to rewire the brain into deactivating these compulsive tendencies slowly. This is why long-term treatment is important to long-term recovery.

How Not To Relapse On Drugs: The Realities

What is a relapse, exactly? SAMHSA defines drug addiction as a relapsing disease, and relapse is essentially the return to drug use after an attempt to stop. While drug use begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs, a person’s ability to choose using becomes compromised over time. Avoiding drug relapse is usually not the best strategy or plan of action. Rather, consider the various options for treatment and allow yourself room to make mistakes and continue progressing. A few options that have been a success in treating drug addiction include:

  • Behavioral counseling
  • Medication
  • Skills strengthening and training
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues like depression and anxiety
  • Long-term follow-up and sober groups

A range of care with a tailored program that includes follow-up options can be crucial to success. As determined by SAMHSA, effective treatment should consist of both medical and mental health services as needed. Follow up care can include support systems that derive from community groups or family care.

As you move through treatment care, consider the following tips on avoiding drug relapse in certain instances. With these tips, addiction relapse rates may begin to fall.

Recognizing Relapse Triggers

Addiction relapse rates are staggering, but recognizing triggers can help avoid fallbacks. In the beginning, a person in recovery may have a laundry list of relapse triggers. Environmental and mental triggers can entice a person to fall back on drug habits solidified with continued use.

Physical triggers can include:

  • Specific physical locations where drug or alcohol use occurred
  • People associated with habit-forming substance abuse
  • Objects (like drug paraphernalia)
  • Even a song or movie
  • Social situations that involve drug use

Mental triggers usually include being exposed to stresses that cause a person to self-medicate in the first place. Some of the most common include:

  • HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired
  • Negative emotions
  • Stress
  • Overconfidence
  • Mental or physical illness
  • Social isolation
  • Relationship issues

From the examples shared above, isolation showcases how detrimental triggers are to addiction recovery. Indeed, social isolation impeded many Americans from continuing their drug treatment and, consequently, many have relapsed or resorted to self-medicating at alarming rates. With statewide mandates that quarantined millions, individuals seeking treatment found it more difficult to maintain course through sobriety. COVID-19, in fact, disrupted services of drug abuse and treatment options so severely that experts are linking a surge in overdoses and addiction relapses with the pandemic.

Overcoming Triggers

Triggers will always have a place in recovery, but effective treatment often helps individuals create “protective triggers” as well. Just like relapse triggers, these protective triggers are learned behaviors that a person in recovery develops through repeated practice. With licensed drug addiction specialists, individuals can begin to unravel the complicated aspects of overcoming habitual misuse. Usually, this entails:

  • Talking to a therapist
  • Going to group meetings
  • Seeking support when needed
  • Sharing your concerns
  • Adjusting your treatment plan

Often, being proactive and taking early action to prevent relapse is the greatest tool to help you stay on track.

Addiction Relapse Rates

Recovery from Alcohol & Drug Addiction

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Emotional and behavioral aspects need to be considered or addressed during treatment, as well. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America state that CBT is an effective tool for enhancing drug treatment as it helps a person become more self-reliant and able to work through potentially stressful situations that may trigger a relapse. Consider various forms of therapy when discussing how to avoid drug relapse.

Behavioral therapy can help explore ways in which a person’s thoughts are related to actions. The treatment can combat or modify negative thought patterns, thus influencing positive affecting behavior.

Holistic Treatment

Holistic treatment refers to the “whole person.” This methodology of treatment works to improve a person’s overall quality of life, including physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Handling difficult situations, particularly as it revolves around substance abuse, often depends significantly on feeling good physically, as they are more equipped to deal with negative emotions. Likewise, nutrition plays a vital role in rebuilding our physical bodies to ward off illnesses and ailments.

According to the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). Insomnia and fatigue are typical side effects of addiction and withdrawal, and not getting enough sleep can be a potential trigger for relapse.

Dual Diagnosis Care

One of the most important aspects of any recovery system is to address the underlying causes that stem from mental health issues.

Research indicates that 43% of people suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD) from prescription painkillers have a diagnosis or symptoms of mental health disorder, particularly depression and anxiety. Similarly, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reports a definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances. Mental health disorder patients are battling:

  • Alcohol Use Disorder (38%)
  • Cocaine Addiction (44%)
  • Cigarettes (68%)

A study published by SAMHSA suggested that the number of Americans living with a substance abuse disorder hovered around 24.6 million. At the same time, about 5 million (or 20%) had a co-occurring mental health disorder. If mental health concerns are left untreated, the potential for relapse increases. With appropriate intervention and dual diagnosis treatment methods, individuals are more likely to succeed in sobriety.

Unfortunately, more than 50% of Americans living with a dual diagnosis did not obtain treatment for either disorder.

Only about 16% of substance abuse treatment centers nationwide offer the intensive mental health treatment required to provide effective care to Dual Diagnosis patients. AspenRidge Recovery is one located in Colorado.

How to Avoid a Drug Relapse: Summed Up

Knowing how to avoid a drug relapse is not a skill that is acquired overnight. It takes many treatments and ongoing support to really understand the nuances linked with the disease of addiction. More than anything, it’s important to allow yourself or a loved one the space to have setbacks. An essential aspect of recovery is to accept that failure is not determined by a relapse rate. Rather, it resides in the progress and proactive steps taken to really understand that addiction is a lifelong illness and that it is possible to overcome with time and dedication.

Seeking supportive services or substance abuse treatment is often the first step needed to progress in the right direction. There, professional and experienced counselors can clarify.

Avoiding Addiction Relapse

How Can AspenRidge Help?

AspenRidge is a dual diagnosis program offering extensive treatment options tailored to individual clients. Our licensed therapist and certified staff members are knowledgeable and supportive. The methodologies deployed through our programs often involve one or more of the tactics we’ve mentioned above, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Group Support
  • Ongoing Individual Therapy
  • Co-Occurring Treatment Options
  • Life skills training
  • Holistic Treatment
  • 12-Step Programs

Of course, we also treat a wide range of specific substances, which are listed here. These methodologies prove to support clients through relapse prevention.

In addition, Alcoholics Anonymous and other community groups are fantastic ways to sustain sobriety. After completion of AspenRidge’s treatment program, those seeking further support can join the Alumni group, which is a sober living group dedicated to supporting long-term recovery. Clients will have a dedicated sponsor and can also mentor others who are moving through recovery.

AspenRidge can provide highly effective and evidence-based practices to achieve sobriety through its step-down and tailored approach. With a developed phase-oriented process, licensed therapists can properly assess all clients’ needs and make adjustments according to progress being made.

Each program including:

is heavily involved and is designed to help obtain and maintain sobriety. Also, AspenRidge can provide a connection to community resources to aid in minimizing relapse.

Prospective clients may contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers at 855-678-3144 to speak to staff about various programs or discuss current family resources. Gaining knowledge before taking the steps towards recovery is essential, and AspenRidge is determined to providing a variety of options to fit each individual. Further information can also be found at

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