Reaching sobriety after battling with drug addiction is not easy, and it’s common to experience some challenges along the way. Recent studies have shown that more than 85 percent of people in recovery relapse within the first year of treatment. Though returning to the cycle of addiction can be discouraging, it should not be considered a failure. Just like any other disease, prevention is key to staying on track. With this in mind, let’s look at why drug addiction relapse is so common in the first place.
Drugs have the ability to interfere with the brain’s natural communication process, thus damaging the way nerve cells (neurons) traditionally send, receive, and process information. When the chemical makeup of our brain mingles with the chemical makeup of an addictive substance, 2 things can happen:
When consumed, addictive substances create a flood of dopamine, often referred to as a “high.” The brain unknowingly processes this feeling as a good thing, naturally prioritizing it and inevitably craving more. Frequent drug use will create imitation surges of pleasure so regularly that the brain becomes unable to derive pleasure from activities that were once enjoyable. When this takeover happens, not only does a person feel inclined to drive dopamine production through misusing drugs, they will also require a larger dose to feel any sort of “high” again. This process not only causes addiction, but also explains why drug addiction relapse is so common.
It’s important to recognize any potential “triggers” that cause you to stray from sobriety. These are people, places, things, or even emotions one should avoided in order to prevent relapsing. Exposing yourself to triggers is how most people begin using again, so it’s best to understand the negative effects your surroundings can have on your overall recovery.
Another aspect of why drug addiction relapse is so common can be explained by the failure to acknowledge emotional cues. This typically happens before a person even considers using drugs again, but negative emotions can spark relapse. Potential relapse inducing emotions are characterized as:
Not checking in with yourself or ignoring your symptoms can cause you to crave a drug generated rush of dopamine. To avoid any potential setbacks to your recovery, you can always reach out to support systems or therapy programs for specialized help.
It’s not always easy to admit that you are spiraling back towards addictive behaviors, just as it’s not always easy to dig deep and figure out why a need for drugs was ever present. The desire to numb yourself can be brought on by many things, such as:
Simply treating the physical aspects of addiction is not enough to reach a point of wellness, and ultimately explains why drug addiction relapse is so common. Just like other chronic illness, we would not only treat one aspect of a disease. Instead, we would work to find the root cause of what has made the person sick. Similarly, addiction is merely a symptom of more serious underlying issues.
Self-care and self-awareness are two of the most valuable practices a person in recovery can possess, the more in tune you are with yourself, the easier it becomes to understand your addiction as a whole. That being said, drug addiction relapse can be extremely dangerous, and even fatal. Reaching out to treatment programs and accepting help from medical professions is your best bet to achieving optimal health and long lasting sobriety.