The Causes of Relapse for Recovering Addicts

Relapse is a constant threat to recovering substance abusers. It is also a common occurrence, but new episodes always bring fear, frustration, and worry to its sufferers and their families. Given the proper triggers, even addicts who have successfully completed intensive treatment programs and remained clean for years can experience a relapse. These episodes can be as brief as a one-time drug use, but longer relapses can last for years. During long relapses, the addict experiences the same dangers as any other substance abuser, including increased risk of violent behavior, suicide, and even death from overdose. Because relapse is such a threat to addicts' lasting recoveries, it is critical for them to learn to recognize its causes and develop powerful coping strategies. The following are some of the most common triggers for relapse in recovering substance abusers.

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS, is the most common cause of relapse. PAWS sets in immediately after the withdrawal of detoxification, and its symptoms include depression, dizziness, poor motor skills, chronic stress, and heightened sensitivity to pain. These frustrating symptoms often cause addicts to self-medicate, continuing their cycles of addiction. In fact, a critical component of many rehabilitation programs is instruction on how to cope with the symptoms of PAWS and mitigate its risks. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome typically lasts for several months after detox, but symptoms can linger for years.

Environmental Triggers

Drug addiction is a physiological condition, the result of permanent alterations to the brain's neurological pathways. When the brain forms these harmful pathways in response to continuous, heavy drug use, it also creates associations with the places where that drug use takes place. For recovering addicts, their dealers' homes, parks where they used to get high, and other compromising environments such as bars and clubs can therefore trigger their compulsions to seek the substances they used to abuse.

Personal Triggers

Addicts also form subconscious associations between drugs and certain people. Friends who still use, as well as people whose behaviors drove addicts to use in the first place can trigger relapse episodes. It is therefore imperative that recovering addicts surround themselves with positively-reinforcing people in safe environments.

Physical Objects

As strange as it may seem to someone who has never struggled with addiction, even inanimate objects can trigger relapses. Just as they form links between drug use, environments, and people, addicts often subconsciously associate certain music or movies with their cravings. For instance, a song someone used to listen to while injecting heroin might trigger his compulsion for the drug if he heard it during his recovery process.

Traumatic Events

Difficult or intense situations can cause an addict to relapse. The deaths of family members or friends, car wrecks, personal injuries, and a host of other traumatic events can be too much for recovering drug abusers to handle, especially when they are suffering the debilitating symptoms of PAWS. In fact, great or prolonged trauma can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition which not only causes relapse, but which often drives a person to use drugs in the first place.

Daily Stress

For many recovering addicts, everyday events and mundane tasks can be stressful, as well. Interpersonal conflicts, money woes, and other common stressors can seem like an incredible burden to people struggling to avoid relapse.

Effective rehabilitation centers prepare their patients for the dangers of relapse and teach them how to cope with their triggers. Whether you're fighting the urge to use again or haven't even begun treatment, click the links below for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. It's never too late to seek help.

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