Drug addiction is a complex disorder that is characterized by craving and the compulsive use of an illegal or prescription drug.  In most cases, drug addiction can be effectively treated by inpatient drug rehab.  For some people, there is no instant cure and relapse is a real possibility.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of recovering drug addicts experience a relapse at some point in their lives.  Relapse does mean that rehab was a failure, but instead indicates that the recovering addict needs to spend more time working on deeply embedded behaviors.

Experts in the field of addiction define an addiction relapse as a return to destructive or heavy use of the abused substance.  When a return to substance abuse is causing negative consequences in one or more areas of the addict’s life, then a relapse has occurred. 

Causes of Addiction Relapse

A variety of factors can contribute to drug addiction relapse.  Some of the most common causes include:

  • Spending time with former drug associates
  • Cravings for the addictive drug
  • A family history of addiction
  • Boredom and purposelessness
  • Anxiety, depression or loneliness
  • Serious mental illness, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia

Some recovering drug addicts mistakenly think that they can control their drug use after completing inpatient drug rehab.  Unfortunately, drug addiction is a chronic condition that must be managed through the course of a lifetime.  Long-term or repeated courses of rehab may be required in order to achieve the goal of sustained sobriety.

Addiction Relapse Treatment

When a recovering addict experiences a relapse, family and friends should remain supportive and avoid speaking in terms of failure.  The best treatment for relapse is immediate therapy.  If inpatient drug rehab was recently completed, aftercare treatment should be available.  When a relapse occurs several years after rehab, outpatient counseling with a healthcare professional should be the first option.  If the relapse is serious, additional inpatient drug rehab may be required.