According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 23.5 million Americans sought treatment for their addictions in 2009. With such a large amount of people going into rehab it begs the question why are so many still suffering from addiction? Addiction is very complicated and there are several factors, like drug relapse prevention, that play into the propensity of users to fall back into addiction.
Addiction causes serious changes to the brain’s chemistry and results in a chemical dependence on the substance. It changes the parts of the brain related to reward, memory, motivation, and other related functions. Because of chronic drug use, changes in the brain may take hours, months, years, or even a lifetime to reverse even after discontinuing drug use. According to Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, out of those who become addicted to a substance before the age of 18 one of four will have a lifelong dependency.
Serious drug abuse often leaves the user alienated from their friends and family. The changes addiction makes to the brain causes the user to put the substance above all other behaviors, activities, and relationships. Additionally, relationships may suffer due to the user’s lack of control and changes in behavior with increased or more frequent drug use.
The friends and family that drug use has not been alienated typically are users themselves. Being around friends or family that use will not only expose you to the drug but also keep the drug easily available. Both of these factors can make staying clean much harder than it needs to be. Continuing to expose oneself to the same unhealthy environment and friends will increase the risk of relapsing. Even certain activities like riding in the car can trigger cravings and temptation. One benefit of drug relapse prevention is that it can help you identify, avoid, and cope with these triggers.
It is absolutely necessary to remain willing to stay drug-free and faithful to your goals and plans. Stressors and major life changes are inevitably going to fester a sense of temptation within any previous user. A great comparison is thinking about rehab like a diet. A personal trainer can help teach you the right skills and help you get on track, but it takes devotion to stay faithful to your diet. One of the great benefits of seeking drug relapse prevention is learning coping skills to help you through these difficult time periods.
If rehabilitation was a cure, addiction would be eliminated, but addiction is much more complicated than something that can just be cured. It usually takes life-long attention and devotion to remain drug-free. Addictions are generally characterized by cycles of relapse and then remission. Just because someone falls back into addiction does not mean that rehab has ‘failed’ it only means that the user needs to adjust their treatment to return to sobriety.