Drug or Alcohol Addiction is a Chronic Relapsing Illness

Drug and alcohol addiction are complex medical challenges faced by millions of people each year. Recent estimates from studies conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggest more than twenty-one million adults over the age of eighteen experience physical and psychological issues related to drug and alcohol addiction. Also, nearly one million adolescents and teens between ages twelve and eighteen experience challenges related to drug and alcohol addiction. As sobering as these statistics may be, what is worse is the chronically low rate at which those who could benefit from addiction treatment seek and receive the help they need to get sober. Another surprising statistic is the number of people who will experience a relapse at some point during their recovery journey. 

Signs of Drug or Alcohol Addiction

When people struggle with addiction, the symptoms and challenges they encounter are unique to their relationship with drugs or alcohol. Addiction and the process of achieving and maintaining sobriety are different for everyone. Also, the signs and symptoms of addiction to various substances will inevitably look different from one substance to the next. The wide range of variation in addiction symptoms can make it challenging to recognize the signs of drug and alcohol addiction in a friend or loved one. 

In general, the signs of addiction can be behavioral, physical, and psychological. Most people experience symptoms from all categories, although the intensity and severity of their symptoms will vary. Physical symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, weight loss, skin changes, and changes to personal hygiene are likely the easiest to spot. Psychological and behavioral changes may be more challenging to detect, but examples include mood swings, depression, irritability, and other personality changes. Long-term addiction may also lead to new or worsening mental and physical health symptoms. 

Drug or Alcohol Addiction is a Chronic Relapsing Illness 

Statistics released from the National Institutes of Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicate addiction treatment rates remain low compared to the rising rates of drug and alcohol addiction. Although millions of Americans of all ages could benefit from potentially life-saving addiction treatment, fewer than 10% will ever reach out to an addiction treatment center to learn about how treatment programs could help them safely and successfully recover from addiction. 

Many people do not realize that seeking help to overcome addiction may not be a one-step process. Although you or a friend or loved one may complete a 30, 60, or 90-day course of addiction treatment, it does not mean you are cured. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol addiction (also referred to as substance use disorders) are diseases without a cure. This means although you can learn to manage your symptoms, avoid triggers, and adopt healthier, safer coping strategies through therapy, struggles with cravings and other issues related to addiction may be life-long battles for some. It is these ongoing challenges that lead to relapse. 

Unfortunately, relapse is an all too common occurrence for many who are new to recovery. However, one does not have to be a newly recovered addict to experience relapse. Incidences of relapse can happen days, weeks, or years after completing therapy. Estimates suggest as many as 60% of those who have completed a treatment program to overcome addiction will experience a relapse at least once. For some, relapse is manageable, and they can move forward in sobriety. However, relapse is significant for others, and returning to treatment is the safest and most effective way to get back on track. 

It is important to note that experiencing relapse does not mean treatment has failed. It is an indicator that further help and guidance as part of treatment or as part of peer support programs may help you practice and solidify your coping strategies to avoid relapse in the future. If you would like to learn more about addiction treatment and relapse prevention planning as part of the comprehensive addiction program, contact us at Twilight Recovery today. Let us help you develop the tools you need to avoid relapse and future addiction struggles.

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