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Should I Go To A Rehab Center After A Relapse?

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 2, 2019

Before attending a rehab center after a relapse, it’s important to understand relapses, why they are so common, and how rehabilitation can help you break the cycle and get back on the road to recovery.

Avoiding a drug relapse is perhaps the toughest part of recovering from an addiction. If you have suffered from a relapse, you have undoubtedly felt a great deal of embarrassment and other tough emotions, but don’t let that stop you from fixing the problem. Don’t let that embarrassment stop you from getting the help you need at a high-quality drug rehabilitation center.

Relapse Is Part of A Cycle

Relapse often feels like a devastating personal failure and is often treated that way by family and friends. However, you need to understand that relapse is actually part of the “stages of change” model of addiction recovery. This model breaks recovery down to four stages (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, and action) and two outcomes (maintenance and relapse).

Precontemplation is the stage when a person still perceives drug use as a positive part of their life. However, as the negative consequences of drug use start piling up, they then enter into the contemplation stage. During this stage, they start to understand they are in trouble and that changes need to be made.

After this realization, they move into preparation – the act of searching for, finding, and creating a recovery plan. Executing that plan is action is the implementation of that plan. One of the two possible results then occurs: maintenance of a drug-free life or relapse.

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The Dangers of Relapse

While some people recovering from a relapse can stop it before it turns serious, others will give in to their addiction. As a result, they’ll be right back where they started before rehabilitation. However, the primary danger associated with relapse is an increased risk of drug overdose.

After a body has been detoxified, it adapts to living without the addictive substance. Introducing that chemical back into a body that still craves it can cause upset that delicate balance and cause an overdose. This is especially true if the person relapses with the kind of doses they used at the height of their addiction.

Common Causes of Relapse

Many relapse influences are exterior i.e. those that exist beyond the physical and emotional control of the person recovering from addiction. Common causes of drug relapses include:

  • Continued association with people who use drugs
  • Presence in places where drugs were commonly used
  • Physical or emotional pain
  • Positive feelings that trigger the “celebratory” use of drugs
  • Complacency or the belief that drug addiction is no longer a threat or a concern

The last cause is particularly shattering: many people recovering from addiction fail to realize or ignore the fact that addiction is a lifelong problem. Even if they go through rehabilitation, live through withdrawal, completely detoxify their body, and eliminate emotional addiction triggers, addiction never truly goes away.

Drug Rehabilitation Can Help Prevent Relapse

If you’ve suffered a drug relapse, rehabilitation is often a necessity. Part of this is due to the “90-day rule.” Studies have shown that the first 90 days of addiction recovery are the most crucial because it is during this period that most relapses occur.

After you’ve suffered a relapse, 90 days of long-term inpatient drug rehabilitation can detoxify your body, treat physical or emotional health problems, and help you pass the 90-day barrier. During relapse rehabilitation, you and your recovery therapist will identify your relapse triggers and work to find ways to avoid them.

Rehabilitation can also serve as a “safe” way to eliminate relapse anxiety. Instead of living those difficult 90 days surrounded by addiction triggers, you will be in the comfort of people trying to beat their addiction. They can serve as a helpful support group that can guide you through the difficult process of eliminating relapse anxiety and cravings.

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