Experiencing a loved one going through issues around drug addiction can be one of the most terrifying experiences a person can go through.
However, seeing a loved one relapse can often be even worse. The hope and promise built up during recovery can seemingly be dashed in an instant, potentially making us feel that true recovery is hopeless.
For drug addicts who truly wish to get their lives back on track, however, there is always a solution.
If you knew how many people relapse after rehab, but then go on to quit drugs successfully and live full, happy lives, you wouldn’t let such a minor bump in the road stop you.
Here we’ll break down what to do if you or a loved one experience this, but first let’s look at the basics:
What is Drug Relapse?
A drug relapse is the name given when a drug addict who is attempting to quit using drugs unfortunately fails at these attempts and begins using again.
Due to the extreme addictive potential of many illicit drugs, especially amphetamines, cocaine and crystal meth, and even some prescription drugs, relapses are unfortunately a fairly common part of this process.
Why Do Drug Addicts Relapse?
The nature of addiction unfortunately makes this very common. However, the answer to what causes relapse in drug addicts can be quite varied.
Reasons can include:
- Cravings increasing despite being under control for a while
- Seeing a friend who you usually take drugs with, or being in an environment where you’re used to being under the influence
- Stress or mood swings
However, the most common cause of relapse is withdrawal.
This is the name given to the series of symptoms experienced by those trying to give up drugs.
Withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable or even life threatening. Symptoms include:
- The shakes
- Tension or agitation
- Boredom or unable to focus on anything
- Intense craving for drug use
- Muscle cramps
Often, a person going through these symptoms will be tempted to use drugs in order to lessen these symptoms and feel more comfortable.
Even if this is done with the intention of staying off drugs and continuing to try to quit, unfortunately this slip up will put you straight back into the cycle of addiction and continuing to attempt to quit after this will feel a lot like starting the entire process again.
In fact, since the withdrawal timeline will begin again at this stage, that is exactly what’s happening. A loved one going through relapse is a sign that they are struggling with addiction and likely need your help, but it is also a sign that they are trying to overcome their issues.
Let’s take a look at how to spot those signs:
Symptoms of Drug Relapse
The symptoms of relapse can be quite hard to catch, especially as the person has likely been using drugs for years so their state of being under the influence may well be considered “the norm”.
However, there are some things you can look out for:
- Returning to friends or social circles they often use drugs with
- Avoiding seeing you or acting secretive
- Financial issues
- Giving up on quitting even though they had been making progress
- Avoiding support groups or therapist meetings
What Percentage of Drug Addicts Relapse?
While the numbers vary from drug to drug and of course from person to person, the National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that between 40 and 60% of people recovering from drug addiction will experience some form of relapse.
How to Prevent Drug Relapse
The only real way to avoid a relapse is to stay mentally present throughout the entire process, and make it through with withdrawal stage.
This requires constantly keeping your eyes on the prize and not letting your discomfort get more urgent than your desire to be healthy and free again.
Some ways to do this include:
Eating healthy – This may seem like a minor thing but constant drug or alcohol abuse causes serious damage to our bodies and wears out our stores of multiple nutrients. Eating healthily can help build up these stores and also keep us as healthy as possible throughout the recovery process. Greasy foods can also cause nausea and potentially make withdrawal feel even worse.
Working out – Exercising gives us a healthy source of dopamine to help us feel good and prevent the withdrawal symptoms from causing depression or severe mood swings. It also provides a distraction from your current issues and seeing your fitness progress can provide an addictive and engrossing hobby to take up in order to distract you from craving drugs.
Admit you have a problem – If you attempt to face this alone while pretending there is no issue to everyone else, you are much more likely to relapse.
Being open about your issues and admitting them to your family and loved ones can make it much easier for them to support you and provide advice, or at the very least, avoid mentioning any potential drug relapse triggers!
Avoid stress – It may sound silly, and you may be asking “How does stress increase risk of drug abuse and relapse?” but this is a major one. Withdrawal symptoms will likely have you feeling agitated and stressed anyway, but if you’re comfortable, well fed, and constantly aware of your situation, you can ignore this and power through.
If you’re running around trying to live your normal life and stressing about day-to-day things, you are making things much harder on yourself, as the withdrawal symptoms are going to convince you that drug abuse is the solution to any problems that arise.
We would recommend booking a week off work for when you’re going through withdrawal, if at all possible.
How to Handle a Drug Relapse
So you’ve tried to quit drugs alone, and relapsed.
This is nothing to be ashamed of, and it can happen to the best of us.
The only real solution is to start again, learning lessons from last time and tackling your issues with more determination than ever.
Most people find this process much easier with professional help.
Here at Serenity Centres, we can offer;
- GP consultations
- A 24/7 helpline
- Nurses and therapists
- CBT sessions
- Support groups
- Guidance on local NHS and private services
- Medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms
- Holistic treatments such as acupuncture
To get in touch, discuss your drug abuse and learn how we can help, why not get in touch?
Our friendly, non-judgemental staff are waiting to hear from you now on 0800 118 2892!