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Relapse is a potential side effect of substance use disorder (SUD). Some people may go through multiple cycles of relapse and treatment before they achieve long-term sobriety. However, it is essential to understand that relapse is dangerous and harmful to individuals in recovery. According to Addiction Relapse Prevention by authors Guenzel and McChargue, “Countless individuals lose their employment, families, freedom, and even lives as a consequence of relapses.” West Coast Recovery Centers uses evidence-based treatments and relapse prevention education to help clients heal and move forward after a relapse occurs. 

What Are Some Reasons Relapse Occurs?

Many factors contribute to relapse. Often, chronic or acute stressors impact a person’s ability to cope, causing them to revert to maladaptive coping mechanisms like substance abuse. According to Current Psychiatry Reports, “Clinical factors, patient-related factors, and subjective and behavioral measures such as depressive symptoms, stress, and drug craving all predict future relapse risk.” The care team at West Coast Recovery Centers works with clients to create comprehensive relapse prevention strategies to help them cope with potential issues during recovery. 

Some of the most common contributing factors related to relapse include: 

  • Severe or persistent symptoms of SUD 
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders 
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Major life changes
  • Financial insecurity
  • Frequent exposure to triggers 
  • Chronic health issues 
  • Lack of social support
  • Low self-esteem 

People may experience multiple types of relapse, including emotional or physical relapse. Emotional relapse is often the first stage and, if left unaddressed, can lead to physical relapse. According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “These are some of the signs of emotional relapse: 1) bottling up emotions; 2) isolating; 3) not going to meetings; 4) going to meetings but not sharing; 5) focusing on others (focusing on other people’s problems or focusing on how other people affect them); and 6) poor eating and sleeping habits.” West Coast Recovery Centers educates clients on how to identify and manage emotional relapse to help them avoid future instances of physical relapse. 

Is Relapse an Inevitable Part of Recovery?

Some people may believe relapse is an inevitable part of recovery, especially if they have a history of relapse. People who are recovering from a recent relapse may feel concerned about backsliding again. Chronic relapse is a significant problem for some individuals in recovery. However, it is not inevitable, and there are steps people can take to avoid future relapse. The care team at West Coast Recovery Centers guides clients through creating relapse prevention and crisis management strategies to help them heal and prevent future relapse. 

Many risk factors play a role in whether a person is prone to chronic relapse, including: 

  • Family history of SUD or mental health disorders 
  • Genetics 
  • Type of substance misused 
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders 
  • Ability to manage stress 
  • Presence of untreated trauma

Relapse is not unavoidable. Nearly half of all people who participate in treatment programs achieve long-term sobriety without relapsing. Moreover, many individuals who do relapse can achieve recovery without relapsing again. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Because setbacks are a natural part of life, resilience becomes a key component of recovery.” People who experience a relapse are not doomed to repeat the behavior. Resiliency is a learned skill. Clients at West Coast Recovery Centers develop resilience and other essential skills during treatment and aftercare. 

How Can People in Recovery Avoid Chronic Relapse?

Clients in treatment may use many methods to cope with a relapse. According to the aforementioned publication in Addiction Relapse Prevention, “Three of the most common relapse prevention strategies have included therapy and skill development, medications, and monitoring.” 

Some other examples of how people avoid chronic relapse include: 

  • Leaning on a healthy support system
  • Practicing regular self-care and mindfulness 
  • Identifying and finding healthy ways to cope with triggers 

Journals and other methods of monitoring thoughts and behavior may help some people avoid relapse by making it clear when they start to backslide into maladaptive thought patterns. Peer support is another excellent source of motivation for maintaining sobriety after a relapse. According to Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, “[P]eer support has been shown to be a key component of many existing addiction treatment and recovery approaches such as the community reinforcement approach, therapeutic communities, and 12-step programs.” People who have experienced a relapse often benefit from engaging with peers who have similar life experiences. 

What Types of Support Are Available When Relapse Occurs?

Many people feel uncertain about what to do after experiencing a relapse. In the minutes, hours, and days directly after a relapse, many people find it helpful to reach out to a crisis line, loved ones, or their care team. Finding a healthy form of support is one of the best ways to reduce the adverse side effects of relapse and get back on track with recovery. 

Some other resources people turn to after a relapse include: 

  • Community-based self-help groups, including 12-Step meetings 
  • Peers 
  • Mentors or sponsors
  • Therapists, doctors, or other clinicians 
  • Community-based recovery services 

West Coast Recovery Centers is always available to support clients and alumni if they experience a relapse. The dedicated care team works with clients and families to ensure they process the event and continue healing. 

Over half of all people who go through treatment experience some form of relapse. Many people believe relapse is a standard part of the recovery process. However, that is not true for everyone. Relapse prevention education and crisis management strategies provide clients with the skills and tools they need to regain sobriety after experiencing a relapse. Some people may have to cope with trust issues, legal consequences, or career problems caused by relapse. West Coast Recovery Centers provides alumni support to clients who may relapse after completing treatment. The care team is available to help people get back on track with their recovery. To learn more about our programs and services, call us at (760) 492-6509.

West Coast Recovery Centers ( 370135CP), Valid through July 31, 2025
Jackson House Visalia (540056AP), Valid through May 15, 2025
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