Relapse is when someone resumes using drugs or alcohol after a sobriety period. Many people who have recovered from addiction have been at a high risk of relapse. Long-term drug use can cause changes in specific structures and functions in the brain that existed before cleaned for the first time. It is common for addicted people to relapse one time or more during recovery.

Risk of Overdose

With certain drugs, relapse can be very dangerous or fatal. Whenever patients stop using drugs and then take the same amount they used to take, they can easily overdose before stopping. Their body systems are not used to the same quantity of the drug. An overdose occurs when a drug causes harmful, severe symptoms or death. This is why it is crucial to take the treatment plan seriously. Treatment helps patients struggling with addiction to lower the chances of overdose or relapse.

Relapse Stages

Relapse is a process that is divided into three stages:

  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Physical

Emotional relapse is usually the first stage of relapse that happens before someone even considers reapplying for recovery. Individuals often begin to experience negative emotional reactions, such as mood swings, feelings of fear, and anger. They may also experience irregular eating and sleeping habits, and because they do not use the support system, their recovery desire often wanes. These are the first red flags for a recovering person who is entering the relapse process. Someone must recognize them as soon as possible.

The stage happens before a person knows they face relapse, and intervention before a mental relapse can prevent the problem. Mental relapse is the next phase. For a recovering person, this is usually a period of internal struggle because, in one way, they want to keep long-term sobriety. On the other hand, they are facing tugs-of-war, and they want to resume taking the drugs.

Some people will always desire to use drugs again, which is why addiction is termed a chronic condition. At this stage of the relapse, people begin thinking directly about drug use, and thus, it becomes difficult to stop the process at this point.


Relapse is somewhat regarded as a misnomer because the process itself is a failure of treatment. However, there are three significant ways to reduce the possibility of drug relapse. These include pharmacotherapy, contingency management, and cognitive-behavioral techniques. The main goal of drug addiction treatment and prevention of relapse is to determine how to meet previous drug use needs. Then, develop the necessary skills to cater to the necessities in alternative ways. Cognitive therapy is among the primary methods of changing negative thinking in people and developing healthy coping skills. When preventing relapse, cognitive therapy effectiveness has been affirmed in many studies.

The negative mindset behind addictive thinking generally disqualifies the positives, and it is negatively self-labeling, catastrophizing, and all-or-nothing thinking. When the affected people engage in such, they might suffer from depression, stress, resentments, and anxiety, and all of which cause relapse. Mind-body relaxation and cognitive therapy help break old habits and retrain neural circuits to bring about healthier and new ways of thinking.

Recovery Means Building a New Life

Recovery entails completely changing previous habits and creating sober lifestyles. Understandably, relapses will occur in the process of building a new life. According to addiction professionals, changing lifestyle habits leads to the recovery process. It is important for addicts to avoid people with who they have used drugs before and places where they have used them. To build new lives, they will also need to change the unhealthy thought processes associated with drug abuse.

Experiencing complete changes can be difficult, and relapses can be encountered along the way. Leading a sober life is, nevertheless, possible with recovery support. People recovering can benefit from working with peer support experts who help them lead a new, sober life. The best6 types of programs to seek in these situations are comprehensive treatment services, including follow-up and recurrence prevention plans.

Virginia Addiction Recovery Center

Douglas A. Brown, M.D. is a family medicine expert certified by the board and specializes in treating patients suffering from opioid use disorder. With over 30 years operating as a doctor, Dr. Brown has successfully helped many patients deal with opioid addiction. The Virginia Addiction Rehabilitation Center is an intensive outpatient treatment program that uses drugs to treat opioid use disorders. Dr. Brown received buprenorphine treatment training and certification from the American Society of Addiction Medicine in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA, combining the latest drug methods with treatment recommendations.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact the Addiction Recovery Center of Virginia today.

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