The Cycle of Addiction and Relapse: And How To Stop It
Not all individuals who use prescription medications, drink alcohol, or partake in drug use for the first time intend on becoming addicted. Addiction rarely occurs immediately after the initial use of a substance.
Instead, there is a variety of factors likely to contribute to a major addiction with repeated use and exposure. Some of the most prominent triggers and factors present with individuals struggling with an addiction include:
- Unhealthy home or work environments
- Social isolation and feelings of loneliness
- Traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues
- Neglect, physical abuse, and emotional abuse in the home
Once addicted, it can become a lifetime struggle for many to regain their sobriety. Often a cycle develops of addiction and relapse, where sufferers find themselves returning to substance abuse. Sometimes new triggers present themselves and in other circumstances, the craving gets the better of them.
It is possible to become addicted to drugs such as heroin, methamphetamines, and other opiates after a first-time use. However, substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and prescription medications often require repeated exposure and a tolerance buildup before an individual becomes heavily reliant and dependent on the substance.
Substance abuse is the next step in the development of an addiction. Some of the reasons individuals turn to use substances repeatedly include:
- Feeling of social isolation
- The inability to cope with high-stress situations
- Escaping from everyday stresses such as work and family life
While some of the reasons can be traced to mental disorders, others are motives evolve out of a desire to escape a present situation. Physically, addiction causes the same chemical dependencies in the brain regardless of why drugs or alcohol was consumed in the first place.
While treating the physical body addicted to drugs or alcohol through detoxification is the same, treating patients mental requires an individualized approach. Mental illness requires a completely different professional treatment program than those who have become addicted through recreational use.
Addiction and relapse cycles can increase the chance of patients, who may originally have become addicted through recreational, developing clinical mental health disorders. Professional addiction treatment centers specializing in dual diagnosis provide solutions with higher success rates than those that treat only the physical dependency.
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Tolerance and Dependence
As an individual’s addiction progresses, their mind and body build a tolerance to the substance. Repeated ingestion and exposure to drugs or alcohol reduces the overall effect a substance has on the body. In turn, individuals may need to consume the substance in higher quantities each time it is used.
As tolerance and dependence continues, individuals feel more reliant on obtaining the feeling of euphoria, calmness, or the high they achieved when they first began using the substance. Often times, tolerance becomes an issue with individuals who are struggling with severe addictions to substances, prompting them to turn to even more dangerous and high-risk drugs.
Even after detoxification treatments have concluded, addiction and relapse can have sufferers seeking dosage levels similar to those of their last use. This presents a dangerous situation where a clean body may overdose on the higher dosage amount since the tolerance has subsided after treatment.
Addiction and Relapse
Once an individual is unable to cope without the use of the drug or substance of their choice, it is likely full-fledged addiction is occurring. Addictions are not always visible at first sight. Some individuals maintain their job and home life without showing blatant signs of addiction or those presented are subtle.
Understanding the signs to look for in an individual struggling with an addiction could very well help save their lives. Although an individual may be fully functional, you or a loved one may have a substance addiction if one or more of the following symptoms exist:
- Change in personality
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Inability to focus and concentrate
- Withdrawal from family members and friends
- Discussions of depression and suicidal ideation
- Preoccupation with obtaining the drug or substance the individual is addicted to
- Loss of interest in socializing, hobbies, and outings that were once a source of joy
Individually, someone not abusing drugs or alcohol could present one of these symptoms. After all, each of us can have a bad day. However, it is when one or more of these traits present themselves consistently over time.
Most individuals may be anxious or irritable for a short length of time, perhaps resulting from an upcoming event or situation. When there is constant anxiousness or irritability from seemingly all situations, it may be a clue an addition may behind the change in persona.
Relapse is a possible outcome of any chronic condition. It is when the addiction cycle repeats itself. For those who are battling addiction, a relapse can occur at any time. However, relapse happens most often when either withdrawal symptoms become too severe to overcome, or a triggering event occurs.
Relapse rates average about 50% according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Experiencing a relapse for individuals trying to get clean means an adjustment to their treatment regimen is likely necessary. If sufferers are trying to quit using drugs or alcohol on their own, a relapse may be an indication all contributing factors to one’s substance abuse have not been addressed and inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment may be necessary.
Rehabilitation centers and treatment facilities provide a zero-tolerance environment to help individuals regain control over their lives. A focus is brought upon by rebuilding relationships and personal goals. By treating the physical, mental, and psychological aspects of addiction, the odds of stopping the cycle before a relapse increases.
Breaking the Cycle
The cost of addictions throughout the United States alone is more than a staggering $740 billion annually. Overcoming an addiction is not a simple process. But, it is possible with the right addiction treatment program.
Rehabilitation centers today are treating both the mind and body. But, they cannot help if they do not know who needs assistance. If you or someone you know needs help for alcohol or substance abuse, call one of our treatment professionals today. Help is just a phone call away.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Addiction?
When a person has an addiction, what they really have is a chronic, relapsing disorder that is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behaviors. They will continue to use their drug of choice regardless of the consequences. They typically experience changes in their brain that can be long-lasting and even permanent in some cases.
An addiction is considered to be both a complex brain disorder as well as a mental illness. Many experts subscribe to the theory that an addiction is a disease, and like any other disease, it needs ongoing treatment.
Why do People Relapse?
Because addiction is known as a relapsing condition, it is to be expected that addicts in recovery will experience relapses. Some may spend their whole lives trying to get clean and sober only to relapse over and over again. Others may relapse a few times before they are finally able to stop using and remain in active recovery.
People relapse for a number of different reasons, such as:
- They never dealt with their triggers. A trigger is anything that can make people feel as though they want to use. It can be a relationship, a location, a situation or even a feeling that makes them relapse. It is important for triggers to be dealt with during addiction recovery, and if they are not, the chances of relapsing only increase.
- They do not get treatment for a co-occurring disorder. This term refers to the presence of a mental health issue alongside any type of addiction. About 50% of people with substance abuse problems also have co-occurring disorders. They should be treated during rehab, and when this is done correctly, the chances of relapsing are much lower.
- They do not get additional treatment after finishing their rehab stay. Alcohol and drug addiction do not simply go away after a person finishes rehab. It is important for people to continue to get the help they need through outpatient programs, 12-Step meetings and other types of support groups.
- They lack the necessary coping skills to deal with their problems. A lot of people will start using again as a way to deal with stress. They may have every intention of stopping once their situation is under control, but that can be extremely difficult.
- They may be at the mercy of their genetics, which can lead to more relapses, according to Michigan Health. For example, a person who has had substance abuse modeled to them their entire life because a loved one was an addict may see using as their only way to cope.
If a Person Relapses, Does That Mean Treatment Did Not Work?
No, a relapse does not mean that treatment did not work. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, which means that it should be expected for people to go back to using before they are finally free.
Even so, it might mean that the individual did not get the right kind of treatment to help them remain in recovery. Not everyone responds well to the same types of treatment. Every effort should be made to help people get the type of help that will work best for them.
If the rehab program is solid, the addict should simply do everything they can to get back into a recovery mindset. That might mean adding a support group or making some changes in their life that will make it less likely that they will go back to using in the future.
Is It Possible to Stop the Cycle of Addiction?
Yes, it is possible to stop the cycle of addiction, although it will not be easy. The best approach is to choose a treatment program that addresses both the physical and psychological sides of the substance abuse problem. Most people will find that they need to go through both detox and rehab in order to be successful in recovery.
Ongoing treatment is essential in order for people to remain in recovery. Those who continue to get the support they need are usually the people who manage to avoid relapsing.
Is There a Way to Cure Addiction?
There is no known cure for addiction, unfortunately. Because it is a chronic disease, it requires ongoing treatment in order to help people remain in recovery. In this way, it is very similar to other types of diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.