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What Is Relapse and Can It Be Prevented?

by Nick

Change is a difficult process for anyone. For individuals struggling to break free from addiction, the simple act of choosing change can be powerful and transformative. Sadly, the chronic, relapsing nature of addiction is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. Relapse is not a sign of failure, and it is not the end of your story.

By understanding what relapse is, you’ll realize that it is a natural, formative step on your journey to living a substance-free life. You’ll also learn how to get back on the road to recovery and prevent relapse from occurring in the future.

What Is Relapse?

To understand what relapse is in opioid addiction, you must recognize that opioid use disorder is a disease. As with any disease, relapse means the sudden worsening of a medical condition that had previously improved. For those in recovery from opioid addiction, relapse means returning to substance use after a period of sobriety.

Whether it’s a small slip up, such as taking a single pill, or a full-blown relapse that sees you returning wholly to your old patterns of behavior, relapse is a heartbreaking experience.

What Causes an Opioid Relapse?

Many things can cause a relapse, even if you’ve been in recovery for opioid addiction for some time. Most of the time, relapses occur spontaneously and without a lot of forethought. That’s because even after a physical dependence on opioids fades away, the craving or deep desire to use comes and goes in waves. Triggers instigate cravings, and there is an abundance of unique triggers that can cause a relapse for someone in recovery. Here are some examples:

  • Some triggers are external, such as places, people or things associated with opioid misuse. This could include interacting with someone who uses drugs or attending a party.
  • Other triggers are internal, caused by feelings, thoughts or sensations within yourself. This could include boredom or stress.
  • The last type of triggers are situational. These are situations you find yourself in that spur cravings, such as romantic relationship that failed or watching TV show or movie that depicts substance misuse.

Can Relapses Be Prevented?

While relapse is undoubtedly frustrating, it doesn’t have to derail your recovery permanently. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly half of people who struggle with substance addiction deal with a relapse. This occurrence can be a teaching tool to help you learn your triggers and the warning signs of relapse so that you’re ready and empowered in the future.

Here are some suggestions that may help you prevent relapse down the road:

  • Don’t let a setback rob you of your freedom from opioid addiction.
  • Connect with your support system regularly.
  • Speak up about your cravings, even if you’re embarrassed or you don’t want to.
  • Practice healthy activities that keep your mind focused on positive life goals.
  • Find addiction treatment combined with counseling services.

Learn More About Relapse Prevention at Health Care Resource Center (HCRC)

If your sobriety is at risk or you experience a relapse, you may need professional support for your recovery journey. Learn about evidence-based opioid addiction treatment at HCRC. Contact us online or give us a call at 866-758-7769.

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