Is Relapse Normal?

For people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol, relapse is extremely common after getting clean. If you or someone you love has experienced addiction, then you know all too well how addicts return to drugs again and again, despite what are often severe, life changing consequences as a result. Those who are hurt by this repetitive behavior often have difficulty understanding that it is actually fairly normal and can be managed with the help of an educated support network. The following are the three leading reasons why relapse can almost be considered normal among addicts and alcoholics.

Acute Withdrawal

When an addict first stops using drugs, they go through a physiological process called detox. During detox, certain areas of the brain and components of the central nervous system that were suppressed by drug use suddenly become hyperactive when the drug is abruptly withheld from the system. This can cause a wide range of uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms that can cause an addict to immediate return to drug abuse again in order to obtain relief.

As a result, drug relapse is quite common in early recovery. This stage generally lasts from 5 to 7 days, but may last as long as 10 days to two weeks, depending on a number of factors.

Post Acute Withdrawal

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is widely considered by addiction experts to be the leading cause of relapse. This set of symptoms sets in immediately after Acute Withdrawal and consists of emotional, physical and mental issues that can persist for several months or longer. Because these symptoms affect a person’s ability to solve simple problems, hold stable personal relationships and even maintain physical coordination, many return to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. According to the Wikipedia entry for Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome;

“Symptoms occur in over 90% of people withdrawing from a long-term opioid (such as heroin habit), three-quarters of persons recovering from long-term use of alcohol, methamphetamine, or benzodiazepines and to a lesser degree other psychotropic drugs.” (1)

And because so many people experience symptoms related to PAWS, it’s no wonder that so many will relapse.

The Kindling Effect

The kindling effect refers to the worsening of symptoms related to Acute Withdrawal, Post Acute Withdrawal and progressive relapses. This means that each time an addict relapses and returns to using again, they generally have worse episodes each time. This can create barriers to treatment in some cases, but in many cases the education addicts received previously during drug rehab prompts them to return for additional help.

Whether relapse is normal or not is really a subjective matter, but what’s not subjective is that each progressive relapse presents a serious risk to the life and well being of the user. If you or someone you love has “fallen off the wagon,” it’s important that you reach out for help immediately. Call the number at the top of your screen for a consultation right now.

(1) Wikipedia Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome