How Rehab and Aftercare Programs can Prevent Relapse and Overdose

Relapse Prevention Tips

Drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic and lifelong illness that needs ongoing management and care. Relapse rates for addiction are similar to relapse rates for other chronic diseases like hypertension or diabetes. But unlike diabetes and hypertension, addiction is a stigmatized disease. People who are in recovery for addiction and their families too can often face social ostracization and judgment for their disorder.

While even careful maintenance of diabetes and hypertension can lead to a relapse, the same can happen with drug or alcohol addiction. In fact, relapse rates for all of these disorders are about the same. The problem is, people who relapse with drug addiction can face scorn and feel shame that can prevent them from seeking help. Street drugs and the amount of dangerous substances in each batch are almost impossible to know, and drug addicts who relapse risk overdosing and dying. Preventing a drug addiction relapse is critical for the health and safety of those in recovery.

What is the clinical definition of drug relapse?

In medical terms, relapse is when a disease recurs after a patient has initially recovered. This can happen in any chronic condition, and the disease of alcohol or drug addiction is no different.

Does experiencing a relapse mean that treatment was a failure?

No, it does not. Many treatment centers view relapses as a normal part of a person’s recovery journey. But one of the most significant problems that can potentially occur with relapse is that they can be dangerous and a person can accidentally overdose. Plus, failing to get into treatment quickly once a relapse occurs can lead to a person spiraling back down into severe drug addiction. Therefore, it is crucial that people leave rehab with aftercare support and maintenance measures in place. If relapses occur in nearly half of all drug addiction cases, aftercare and maintenance must be an integral part of a person’s healthcare treatment plan.

What are the relapse rates for drugs and alcohol?

Substance use disorders have relapse rates between 40% and 60%. In contrast, hypertension and asthma have relapse rates of 50% to 70%. However, certain substances are associated with higher relapse rates than others. According to SAMHSA, the following substances have the highest relapse rates:

  • Heroin and opioids – 78%
  • Alcohol – 68%
  • Cocaine – 61%
  • Methamphetamine – 52%

Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth completely rewire the brain’s neural pathways, and the withdrawals for these drugs are incredibly severe, even with medical treatment. Depression and severe cravings for these drugs are common after a person enters recovery and quits. For alcohol use disorders, it is incredibly difficult for a person to abstain from alcohol without a strong support system in place once they leave rehab. Alcohol is not only legal, it is easy to obtain, and it is also ubiquitous when it comes to social events and gatherings.

Because these drugs have such high relapse rates, it is often beneficial for patients to seek out medical help for their cravings. Alcohol and heroin addiction can be successfully treated with certain medications, and pharmacological treatment can help to prevent a relapse and a fatal overdose from happening.

Can the amount of time someone spends in rehab influence relapse rates?

Studies have consistently found that people who’ve entered rehab for addiction were more likely to achieve three years of subsequent sobriety than those who do not seek formal treatment. It is possible to quit drugs or alcohol without medical help from rehab specialists. But people who do not seek help are far more likely to relapse than those who enter rehab.

The longer a person spends in a rehab center, the higher their likelihood of achieving initial sobriety and maintaining lifelong abstinence from drugs. Addiction is a disease that has many different facets to it that all require their own unique set of interventions and treatments.

For example, a significant percentage of people who enter rehab and medical detox also meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. Mental health disorder symptoms can trigger someone to use drugs or alcohol to cope with distressing symptoms. Also, drugs and alcohol can deteriorate a person’s mental health and trigger latent symptoms and conditions.

By entering treatment, patients can get access to trained and experienced mental health professionals who know how conditions like depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety interact with drugs and how drugs can worsen these conditions. By treating both disorders at the same time, patients are given a higher likelihood of achieving initial sobriety and avoiding a common relapse trigger – mental health symptoms.

It is thought that addiction can also be explained by a person’s underlying thought processes and the way they cope with stress and trauma. Uncovering the emotional and psychological aspects of a person’s addiction takes time. It also takes time to treat patients in therapy, and give them the tools they need to avoid stress and other emotional triggers for drug use.

Addiction is something that is highly personal to every patient who enters rehab. What can trigger one patient may not even register on another person’s radar. Also, certain treatment methods will work for some patients but not for others. Entering rehab and creating aftercare and maintenance plans with doctors and therapists gives patients the greatest chance of remaining sober for life.

When treatment plans are individualized and designed for treating the long-term aspects of the disease of addiction, patients can better avoid relapse and overdose. Addiction affects all parts of a person’s life, and aftercare maintenance plans work best at preventing relapse when they address a patient’s social, mental, career, family, housing, and legal needs.

Are you or someone you care about addicted to drugs or alcohol? Attending rehab can give you access to addiction and mental health treatment specialists who are trained and experienced with helping people achieve sobriety and avoid relapse. The representatives at Mission Harbor Behavioral Health are standing by to assist you today. Please, contact Mission Harbor to explore your options for addiction treatment.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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