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Chronic Addiction Relapse and Long-Term Treatment

Relapse is often seen as a part of recovery that can be devastating, but the instances are more like road bumps rather than dead ends. Bouncing back from relapse is possible, and some are able to do it quickly and efficiently, while others may struggle. Everyone’s recovery experience is different, and if chronic relapse is becoming an issue, there are steps that can be taken to strengthen prevention in the future along with extended treatment to reinforce complete healing.

Relapse Cycle

Drugs alter the brain in a way that is difficult to undo quickly. The pathways created by certain behaviors that make the user feel pleasure or a euphoric-like state become stronger with every use. Those who misuse substances like opioids for an extended period of time often end up doubling or tripling their original dosage from when they initially began using. That means the pathways created in the brain are strong and can be demanding during treatment and recovery, causing cravings and urges.

When those impulses become too strong to overcome, someone in recovery may come across even the slightest of triggers that cause them to relapse. At one time, the brain saw these triggers as a way for it to receive the feeling of happiness or contentment by using drugs, signaling the reward pathway in the brain. In recovery, people work very hard to overcome these triggers and replace the brain’s association with pleasure. It’s a long process that requires exposure and practice in order to rewire the brain, which can be exhausting for many after several relapses within a short period of time.

Long-Term Treatment

If chronic relapse is an issue, patients are urged to look into long-term comprehensive care as a solution to get themselves more steadily back on their feet. Programs often include:

  • Detox: Patients benefit from going through medical detoxification while being carefully monitored by medical professionals. For opioids, it takes several days, and once the body is freed of the substance, they are able to move forward with the next steps.

  • Evaluation: Patients may be struggling with mental health-related to OCD, anxiety, depression, or more complex issues like bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. Being appropriately diagnosed by a psychiatrist with a co-occurring disorder can help get to the core of frequent relapse occurrence and provide direction for a long-term treatment plan.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Medications that reduce the effects of withdrawal systems and cravings, such as methadone and buprenorphine; or, prevent the effect of opioids like naltrexone implant or Vivitrol®, which is an FDA-approved naltrexone injection. Some patients using this method, when combined with counseling, have found it helps to reduce chronic relapse after many attempts at recovery.

Recovery is a long road that isn’t always linear. There will be good days and bad days, and even those who put in all of their effort and hard work every day can still face challenges. Chronic relapse can be discouraging, but it’s possible to seek a comprehensive form of treatment that can offer advanced support to those who need it most. If you're struggling with your addiction, please reach out to us today!


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