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Why Do People Relapse After Rehab?

One of the more common questions we receive from patients is, “Why do people relapse after rehab?” The tendency for recovering addicts to revert to destructive past behaviors after treatment is an unfortunate reality. But it doesn’t mean patients should feel discouraged or take their treatment less seriously as a result. In fact, the reasons and statistics behind drug and alcohol relapse can serve as a source of hope and encouragement for those in recovery.

A knee-jerk response to drug relapse is to suggest that substance abuse treatment is a failure. A former addict’s return to drug use leads some to believe that the treatment process is a waste of time and has failed to achieve its intended goal. While this may seem like a logical conclusion to draw, it is far from the truth.

study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000 found that relapse rates for drug addiction are similar to those for chronic illnesses, including asthma, type I diabetes and hypertension. The study compared diagnoses and responses to treatment among drug addicts to those of individuals suffering from the three previously mentioned conditions. The results showed that drug addicts relapsed at rates of 40 to 60%, type I diabetes patients at rates of 30 to 50%, and both hypertension and asthma patients at rates of 50 to 70%.

What does all of this mean? The results of this study challenge the idea that drug relapse amounts to the ineffectiveness of treatment. An analysis by the National Institute on Drug Abuse expands on this idea: “Unfortunately, when relapse occurs many deem treatment a failure. This is not the case: Successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases.”

The results of the study encourage us to look at relapse not as a failure of treatment, but as a need to modify or reconsider the patient’s treatment regimen. For instance, when a patient receives successful treatment for hypertension, but experiences recurring symptoms after treatment has ceased, the Doctor must perform additional treatment or alter the patient’s regimen altogether to address the return of symptoms.

Similarly, when a drug addict relapses, the counseling professional must re-evaluate the treatment plan for that patient. Drug relapse is a signal that there are underlying issues in a patient’s life that were not addressed in the first place or need to be re-examined in order to achieve long-term sobriety.

The answer to our question, “Why do people relapse after rehab?” is that there is more work to be done in the treatment process. This reminds recovering addicts that the road to sobriety is lifelong and is not to be taken lightly.

If you or a loved one has recently relapsed with drugs or alcohol, do not be discouraged. This is simply another step in your journey, and you don’t have to handle it alone. Prominence Treatment’s compassionate representatives are standing by 24 hours a day to serve you. Call 877-383-2284 today for a free consultation.

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