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Addiction Treatment

Chronic Relapsing: Finding Treatment for Life-long Recovery 

Addiction is a chronic disease. This is because addiction causes changes to the brain. As a result, people that suffer from addiction have a tendency to fall back into it over and over again even after multiple stints in rehab. 

Thus, people who suffer from addiction must be proactive about their recovery every day for the rest of their lives to avoid relapsing. For some people who suffer from addiction, avoiding relapse is particularly difficult, especially over a long period of time. That’s why so many people suffer from chronic relapsing. 

What is Chronic Relapsing?

Defining Chronic Relapse

Chronic Relapsing is a condition where a person has a persistent tendency for addictive behaviors to recur after periods of abstinence or successful treatment. It is characterized by a cycle of addictive behavior, withdrawal, and relapse. This tendency often becomes evident after a 30-90 day period in addiction treatment, highlighting the chronic nature of addiction. Managing addiction requires long-term strategies and ongoing support beyond the initial months of treatment. 

Long-Term Treatment Efficacy

The longer an addiction treatment program, the more likely that it will lead to success and you will not relapse after attending it. Think about it. Medical professionals say that it takes several months of consistently doing something to change or create the smallest new habit. What makes you think that you can overcome a disease that literally causes changes to your brain’s chemistry in only 30 to 90 days? It just doesn’t make any sense. That is why long-term addiction treatment is the most effective form. 

Sustaining Recovery and Aftercare

After a person attends long-term addiction treatment, the best way to sustain sobriety is to utilize aftercare treatment services that will help that person better transition into society. While attending life-long treatment and using aftercare services will minimize the chances of you relapsing, there is no guarantee. 

This is especially true if you struggle with chronic relapsing. Thus, the best way to manage chronic relapsing is to be proactive about your recovery at all times. 

Causes of Chronic Relapse

Numerous things can contribute to a person developing a chronic relapsing condition. Misusing a large number of substances for a long period of time prior to attending treatment can be one reason why a person struggles with chronic relapsing. 

Past physical or sexual abuse or other past traumas can also contribute to someone dealing with chronic relapse. Other common causes of chronic relapsing include: 

  • Not receiving addiction treatment after attending detox 
  • Attending addiction treatment that isn’t individually specialized to your needs 
  • Having an unstable or harmful home environment 
  • Not simultaneously treating any co-occurring disorders that you may have 
  • Not receiving aftercare treatment 
  • Going through a major life transition 
  • Other forms of addictions that you may be suffering from, like gambling addiction or sex addiction, transferring over into your substance addiction 
  • Not being honest with addiction treatment specialists and therapists when in rehab 
  • Family conflict 
  • Being triggered by an object or environment that you associate with drug use 
  • Stress 
  • Financial instability 
  • Hanging out with the same people or in the same environments as when you were using drugs 
  • Lack of accountability 
  • Not changing the way you think about drugs and alcohol 
  • Post-acute withdrawal syndrome 
  • Not following relapse prevention methods 
Infographic on the three stages of relapse

Stages of Relapse

Drug and alcoholic relapse occur in three stages. These three stages are the emotional relapse stage, the mental relapse stage, and the physical relapse stage. 

Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse is the first stage of relapse. Emotional relapse occurs when people that are in recovery from addiction behave and emotionally react in ways that set them up for relapsing. People that emotionally relapse, do so unconsciously without actively thinking about using drugs. As a result, many people in the emotional relapse stage are in denial about it. 

Signs of emotional relapse include: 

  • Bottling up emotions 
  • Isolating oneself 
  • Not attending support group meetings 
  • Not participating in support group meetings 
  • Not focusing on fixing your addiction issues 
  • Poor eating and sleeping habits 
  • Poor self-care 

Mental Relapse

Mental relapse is the second stage of relapse. During mental relapse, people in recovery start to want to use substances. Although people in mental relapse start to actively think and desire the use of drugs again, there is still a part of them that is resisting. The deeper a person goes into mental relapse, the more that person wants to use substances. 

Signs of mental relapse include: 

  • Craving for drugs and alcohol 
  • Thinking about people, places, and things associated with past use 
  • Glamorizing past times of drug use 
  • Minimizing the negative effects of past drug use 
  • Bargaining 
  • Lying 
  • Thinking of ways to control drug use 
  • Looking for opportunities to relapse 
  • Planning for a relapse 

Physical Relapse

Physical relapse is the third stage of relapse. During a physical relapse, people in recovery start to use substances again. Most physical relapses occur during a time when those in recovery get an opportunity and don’t think that they will get caught. 

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Relapse

Everyone’s experience with chronic relapsing is different. Still, there are some common signs and symptoms of chronic relapsing. 

These common signs and symptoms of chronic relapse include: 

  • Hopelessness 
  • Coming across as a professional at treatment 
  • Only attending treatment to appease family and friends 
  • Not completing an entire program 
  • Refusing to face underlying issues for addiction 
  • Feeling exhausted and down due to many relapses 
  • Being dishonest 
  • Desiring to use substances 
  • Inability to apply knowledge about addiction, recovery, and sobriety 
  • Associating sobriety with struggle 
  • Going through emotional issues 
  • Poor sleeping and eating habits 
  • Experiencing cravings for substances 
  • Using substances again 
  • Romanticizing drug use 
  • Believing that you can use substances again without becoming addicted 
  • Increased isolation 
  • Not attending support groups 
  • Not pursuing interests and hobbies picked up during treatment 
  • Doubting the effectiveness of recovery 

The Cycle of Addiction and Chronic Relapse

There is a cycle that most people that suffer from addiction go through prior to relapsing. This cycle of addiction and chronic relapse contains six stages. The stages of addiction and chronic relapse include: 

  1. Drug use and misuse
  2. Tolerance and dependence
  3. Addiction
  4. Contemplating treatment
  5. Completing addiction treatment
  6. Relapse

Relapse Rate By Substance

People have a tendency to relapse from addiction to certain substances more than others. For example, 40%- 60% of people that suffer from alcoholism will experience alcoholic relapse within their first year of recovery. 

61% of people that suffer from methamphetamine addiction will experience a relapse within their first year of recovery. 65%- 70% of people that suffer from cocaine addiction will experience a relapse within the first 90 days of their recovery, and 90% of people that suffer from heroin addiction will experience a relapse within the first year of their recovery. 

Thus, no one should feel shame about relapsing from addiction. As long as you receive treatment and take the proper measures to avoid relapsing again, you’ve done what you can do. 

How Families Can Assist in the Prevention of Chronic Relapsing

Understanding and Empathy

Oftentimes family members can’t understand why their loved ones that suffer from addiction can’t just get it together and stop relapsing. It also doesn’t help that many family members of people that suffer from addiction are frustrated with being taken advantage of and lied to by their addicted loved ones. 

Due to all of these frustrations, many family members excessively guilt trip their addicted loved ones, or even worse, enable the addictions of their loved ones. Unfortunately, both of these actions will likely only trigger a relapse. 

Family Therapy

To better understand chronic relapsing, family members of people that suffer from the disorder should attend family therapy. To assist in the prevention of chronic relapsing, family members of people that are recovering from addiction should hold their loved ones accountable for their actions while still lovingly supporting and encouraging them when they are down. 

Participating in family therapy can improve communication and address underlying issues contributing to the addiction, thereby helping to prevent relapses. 

Chronic Relapsing Treatment Options

Professional Detox and Long-term Treatment

Detox is the first step in treating chronic relapsing, helping individuals safely withdraw from substances under medical supervision. Following detox, engaging in long-term treatment provides the comprehensive support needed to address the deeper aspects of addiction. 

Aftercare and Continued Support

Taking any necessary medications, learning how to manage your triggers, continuing to attend addiction therapy and support groups, and creating a chronic relapse prevention plan will further help you treat and manage your chronic relapsing after you’re in recovery.  

Sana Lake Recovery Is One of the Top Chronic Relapse Treatment Centers

At Sana Lake Recovery, we understand the measures that a person needs to take to treat chronic relapsing. We also understand what people in recovery need to do to prevent chronic relapsing. That’s why we make sure that each of our patients attends detox and specialized addiction treatment. 

We also make a conscious effort to offer various different kinds of long-term addiction treatment programs. We even make sure to offer our patients medication-assisted treatment, treatment for co-occurring disorders, and various forms of behavioral and family therapy. That way, all withdrawal symptoms, mental illness, family issues, or toxic behaviors get taken care of immediately. 

Here at Sana Lake, we even provide our patients with countless aftercare treatment programs and services that they can use once regular treatment is over. For example, we offer sober living and transitional housing, support groups, relapse prevention and personalized recovery planning assistance, and our supportive Members for Life alumni program. 

With all of the measures that we here at Sana Lake Recovery take to treat and prevent chronic relapse, we’re one of the top chronic relapse treatment centers. To learn more about Sana Lake Recovery and our treatment programs and services, contact us today. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction. 

Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. (n.d.). Relapse prevention for addictive behaviors. 

Ochsner Journal. (n.d.). Suboxone: Rationale, science, misconceptions. 

Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. (n.d.). Determinants and prevalence of relapse among patients with substance use disorders: Case of Icyizere Psychotherapeutic Centre. 

Picture of Ashley Murry LCSW
Ashley Murry LCSW
Ashley Murry, LCSW, is the Chief Clinical Officer at Sana Lake Recovery. She oversees clinical operations, ensuring effective treatment strategies and compliance. Before this, she was Program Director at Gateway Foundation, managing care programs and collaborating with state departments. Ashley has also served as Director of Clinical Services at Treatment Management Company, improving staff retention and clinical standards. She holds a Master's in Social Work from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor's in Social Work from Saint Leo University. She is licensed in Florida, Arizona and Missouri.
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