4 Signs That You May Relapse

January 7, 2013

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Relapse is a primary concern in the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Many addicts and alcoholics have been through rehab only to find themselves in a relapse scenario. For some, rehab has become a nightmare revolving door.

An effective drug rehab program would have to contain certain key elements:

  • Medically supervised detoxification wherein the person is ultimately no longer dependent on any drug, i.e. not on a replacement drug. The use of medication to gradually bring a person off opiates, psychotropic medication and other chemicals may be necessary at first, but the end result is that all drugs have been tapered off and no drugs whatsoever are needed.
  • Addressing the root causes of the addiction: why the individual turned to drugs, to begin with; the Relapsepersonal, familial, social, environmental, mental and spiritual factors that contributed to protracted drug use are addressed effectively. For example, the person may have no clue as to how to handle other people or situations in life. By educating with real know-how, we put someone in a much better position to solve life’s dilemmas without turning to “chemical escape.”
  • Repairing the damage caused by drug abuse. An addict or alcoholic has to face up to the damage he or she caused. This could be part of a 12-Step program or other methodology, but the general theory is the same. He or she has to take some responsibility and possibly make some amends. This step is not effective with a “finger pointing” mentality. It is a step of compassion for all concerned.
  • Relapse prevention is an absolutely essential step. The person came from an environment that encouraged drug use. Is he or she now going straight back into that same situation? Each person’s case is different: old friends who are still on drugs, peer pressure, proximity to locations where dealers and users congregate, parties where alcohol is flowing freely. An effective program must have steps to prepare for these scenarios. The graduate of a rehab program may need to move to another city altogether. Each case is unique.


The flip side of the coin is that if any of the above steps are missing or incomplete, the chance of relapse increases.

Again, broken down into the four main points:

  • Chemical dependency is still a problem. An addict can withdraw from heroin and be on a daily dose of methadone instead. This is not “recovered from addiction.” Someone can be put on prescription pills – such as suboxone or naltrexone – to “manage cravings.” This is not “free from chemical dependency.” At some point, the replacement drug may not satisfy the craving and a relapse is just around the corner.
  • Root causes not remedied. The person is thrust back into life, into the same position as before, unable to cope with life’s problems. The education in life-skills was non-existent or incomplete, or counseling did not get to the deep-rooted trauma or events which contributed to addiction. If a person feels “overwhelmed” by the environment, it is a warning sign that more work is needed to prevent relapse.
  • Too much wreckage in the road. The addict or alcoholic runs headlong into the same family or friends that he or she wronged in the past. While addicted, a person can lie, steal, and resort to all manner of behavior in order to obtain drugs. Others can feel quite betrayed. While it may not be possible to repair every single relationship, more work may be necessary to wipe the slate clean and prevent relapse.
  • Lack of preventative action. The relapse prevention steps must be detailed and proactive. You have to really dig in, drill various scenarios, and coach the person on all sorts of eventualities. It is an active and realistic process, not dry and theoretical. Contact with enablers and other factors could result in relapse if this step is vague or impractical.


There is one final element that is the make or break of the rehabilitation process. It is the one factor that holds all the others in place: the willingness of the individual. With no willingness, there is virtually nothing that can be done. With willingness, anything can be overcome. The “power of choice” must be present. While no one can guarantee an addict or alcoholic will never relapse, there are many things you can do to appeal to the individual’s power of choice. Perhaps the cumulative effect of failure has depleted the person of this willingness. It could be buried deep and hasn’t seen the light of day in years.


The best recovery system would be one that deals with all the above factors, and tailors a program to the individual’s needs. Holistic rehabilitation means addressing the personal, familial, social, environmental, mental, and spiritual aspects of drug and alcohol addiction. Holistic recovery means the individual now lives a rewarding existence – free from the grips of any mind-altering substance.

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