“What remains in diseases after the crisis is apt to produce relapses.”
– Hippocrates, “Aphorisms”
Hippocrates was a pretty astute physician for one who lived so long ago, wasn’t he? Written somewhere around 400-450 BC, the above quote about relapsing diseases could easily have been describing the power of substance addiction over those in recovery, and their constant fight to stay abstinent, clean and sober.
Nowadays, we have organizations such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), who state that although addiction is treatable (like diseases such as diabetes), because there is no magic pill that actually removes the disease completely from the mind and body of an addict, there exists the potential for future relapses back into substance abuse.
Every disease can have a backslide, a relapse, in its treatment, where a patient who is under treatment begins to become ill again, and managing such events successfully should be an important part of the actual patient’s overall treatment plan.
Substance addiction, whether it’s drugs – Substance Use Disorder (SUD) – or alcohol – Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) – is medically defined as a chronic disease, and relapses occur when the recovering addict begins to use their drug of choice, eg. heroin, OxyContin, or whisky, once again. Although relapse is considered part of the spectrum of recovery, more and more is now being done to actually prevent it.
Because of the nature of addiction, an important part of its treatment is the identification of certain behaviors that existed at the time of abuse, and changing those behaviors for far healthier ones. If the identified behaviors are not radically altered, relapse becomes significantly more likely.
The best course of action following any kind of relapse, regardless of its gravity, is to seek the advice of the family doctor, an addiction treatment specialist, or other medical professional, who can then either resume or significantly modify the previous treatment. This is exactly what happens when a diabetic sees a spike in their glucose levels – a modification of treatment will then be prescribed.
Relapse can be a common occurrence in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Because of this, all professional addiction treatment programs will have a relapse prevention plan built into them. Having such a plan will ensure that the recovery process, although impacted, is not completely derailed.
All relapse prevention plans are tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the individual concerned. According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), peer-based support groups – a group which helps people as they navigate through the different phases of recovery – can help insure individuals who relapse can move beyond the relapse itself, and so continue their required treatment.
Furthermore, recovering addicts can have access to a wide range of therapies and rehabilitation tools that are designed to address the existence, and possible daily presence, of cravings that can lead to a relapse. With their treatment plan making alternatives available and by focusing on specialized programming, patients who are struggling with the recovery process can make it through any relapses that might occur.