Why Addicts Relapse After Rehab – and How to Prevent This

It’s estimated that more than 85% of people relapse after completing drug or alcohol rehab. This happens for many reasons. Rehab removes the person from their daily stresses and triggers. Once they’re back in the real world, those triggers return. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms may still persist after rehab as well. Without learning new coping strategies, the risk of relapse is high. However, there are ways to prevent relapse after rehab.

Causes of Relapse After Rehab

Here are some of the main reasons why people relapse after addiction treatment. 

Lack of Follow-Up Care

Rehab is meant to be the starting point on the road to recovery. But recovery is a lifelong process. Without appropriate follow-up care after rehab, the risk of relapse rises. Those without aftercare lose that support system. 

Returning to Old Environments 

During rehab, patients are removed from environments that trigger drug use. Once they are back home, those triggers return – certain friends, neighborhoods, items, or activities associated with past drug use. Without learning skills to handle triggers, relapse happens easily.

Unresolved Mental Health Issues

Many addicts also struggle with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and trauma. Rehab may not fully address these issues. The mental distress that led to addiction can still persist after rehab. Self-medicating urges return, raising relapse risk. Ongoing psychiatric treatment and therapy are needed.

Prescription Medications

Some patients are prescribed potentially addictive medications after rehab, like opioids for pain or benzodiazepines for anxiety. This re-exposes them to addictive substances. Using medications as prescribed can be challenging for recovering addicts. Proper medication management is key.

Withdrawal and Cravings

Cravings and withdrawal symptoms continue long after detox. Rehab provides a safe environment away from temptations. After rehab, cravings may return intensely. Learning to cope with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and cravings makes relapse less likely. 

How to Prevent Relapse After Rehab

The best ways to prevent a relapse are as follows:

Aftercare Treatment Programs

Ongoing aftercare gives continued support after rehab. Primary treatment should transition seamlessly into aftercare.

Avoid Addiction Triggers

Moving away from old neighborhoods or changing social circles may help. Learning to handle unavoidable triggers also minimizes relapse risk.

Develop a Relapse Prevention Plan

A detailed relapse prevention plan outlines personal triggers, warning signs of relapse, and coping strategies. Having a plan makes it easier to interrupt the relapse process before use occurs. Reaching out for help when warning signs appear is key.

Self-Care and Healthy Lifestyle

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits promotes recovery. Exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques help heal the brain and body. Building a balanced, meaningful life free of addiction leaves less room for relapse risk. Prioritizing self-care makes recovery more sustainable.

Medication and Medical Support 

Medically-assisted treatment like methadone or Suboxone can ease withdrawal and cravings. Seeing a doctor regularly allows monitoring of prescription medication use. Ongoing medical and mental health treatment provides stability. Communicating with all providers creates accountability.

Lifelong Recovery Support 

Recovery is an ongoing process. Maintaining sobriety means making recovery a lifelong commitment. Support groups, counseling, and healthy friendships provide motivation for sobriety. Being immersed in a recovery community makes relapse less tempting. 

Recovery takes constant effort, but lifelong sobriety is achievable.

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