Substance Use

Chronic Relapse: The Why, Stages & What to Do

woman looking at drugs and needle considering relapse

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Why Do Addicts Relapse? How Can It Be Prevented?

The path of recovery from substance abuse can be riddled with setbacks, especially during the first year. However, just because you’ve relapsed before doesn’t mean you will relapse again. Programs aimed at preventing relapse offer valuable tools for managing negative emotions and navigating high-risk situations that put you at risk of substance use. By mastering these strategies, you can enhance your ability to conquer addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Zinnia Health provides inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that incorporate medical detox and assistance with withdrawal symptoms. We also offer chronic relapse treatment. Call (855) 430-9439 for immediate help with your substance use disorder.

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What Is Chronic Relapse?

Chronic relapse is challenging, but it’s a common issue in overcoming substance abuse. It refers to the persistent cycle in which an individual repeatedly returns to harmful substance use or addictive behaviors, despite earnest attempts and periods of abstinence.

Why Does Chronic Relapse Happen?

Chronic relapse during recovery from drug and alcohol addiction occurs due to many interconnected factors. The reasons are as individual as the person undergoing the recovery process, but there are some common threads, which include:

  • Biological factors such as genetic predisposition to addiction
  • The presence of cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Altered brain chemistry from sustained drug use
  • Psychological triggers and mental health issues, such as stress, trauma, lack of coping skills, or depression
  • Environmental influences, such as social pressures, access to substances, or a lack of supportive networks to encourage sober living
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Neglecting self-care practices, such as proper nutrition
  • Toxic relationships

Treatment programs focusing only on substance use without addressing these underlying factors risk leaving individuals vulnerable to chronic relapse.

What Are the 3 Types of Relapse?

Understanding the three types of relapse — emotional, mental, and physical — can help formulate strategies to reduce relapse risk factors.

Emotional Relapse

In this stage, individuals may not consciously think about using substances again. However, their emotions might signal potential risks, such as anxiety or anger, previously diminished with substance abuse.

Mental Relapse

A mental relapse is like an internal battle: part of you wants to return to the substance, but another resists strongly. During this stage, cravings become more intense, and thoughts about using grow stronger.

Physical Relapse

The final phase, physical relapse, is when someone starts alcohol or drug use again after a period of abstinence. Physical relapse is considered the most dangerous stage in terms of risk for overdose.

Are you tired of the relentless cycle of relapse? It’s time to delve into the “why” and understand the stages of chronic relapse with Zinnia Health. Call (855) 430-9439 to speak to one of our compassionate professionals. Our addiction treatment programs address the underlying causes of substance abuse and provide you with coping strategies to stay away from addictive substances.

What to Do: Strategies for Avoiding Chronic Relapses

When people relapse, it’s a sign to consider adjusting the relapse prevention plan. The following strategies can help:

Getting Professional Help

Professional treatment is crucial in preventing chronic relapse, and an aftercare program post-rehab is essential. Substance abuse professionals have the expertise to help you develop healthy coping skills and effectively manage addiction.

Licensed treatment professionals design individualized plans tailored to each patient’s unique triggers and vulnerabilities. This personalized approach significantly enhances therapy effectiveness by directly addressing specific needs.

Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Continuously working on personal growth and addressing underlying issues is crucial for long-term recovery. For example, learning and practicing healthy ways to cope with stress and emotions can help lifelong recovery by replacing drug use as a coping mechanism.

Making Self-care a Priority

Establishing a healthy daily routine, eating balanced meals, getting enough restful sleep, engaging in regular exercise, nurturing relationships with loved ones, and taking time to enjoy hobbies will boost your physical and mental well-being.

Making self-care a priority demonstrates commitment, reinforces healthy habits, reduces stress levels, and fosters motivation toward healing.

Attending Support Groups

Attending support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous helps reduce the risk of relapse.

Group therapy encompasses attending groups where you can share common struggles with others who understand firsthand what you’re going through while spending time around positive influences that encourage healthier lifestyle choices.

Building a Strong Support System

Associating with understanding, supportive people can make a significant difference in recovery. For example, spending time with family and friends committed to helping you stay sober can be invaluable.

A strong support system also includes access to trained professionals, such as therapists, nutritionists, and doctors, who can help address underlying issues and offer resources for coping mechanisms.


Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment without judgment. It’s acknowledging your feelings and thoughts but not allowing them to control you.

Activities such as meditation or yoga can help cultivate mindfulness. When practiced regularly, it can greatly reduce cravings and help prevent relapse.

Stress Management

Incorporating stress management strategies into daily routines is another key aspect of sustained recovery. The following are all proven ways of managing stress effectively:

  • Adequate sleep: Ensuring enough restful sleep every night helps keep your mind sharp
  • Balanced nutrition: A healthy diet keeps energy levels stable and reduces chances of emotional eating, which often leads to substance abuse
  • Hobbies you enjoy: Engaging in enjoyable pastimes gives a sense of purpose and fulfillment while also serving as a distraction from potential triggers

SMART Recovery Programs

An integral part of successful long-term sobriety involves participating in structured programs like SMART Recovery.

Evidence-based tools designed specifically for addiction recovery teach practical self-empowerment and self-reliance skills that help participants:

  • Find internal motivations to stay sober by identifying personal values related to their recovery
  • Handle cravings when they arise
  • Handle issues without resorting to substance use
  • Create an enjoyable life by balancing short-term pleasures with longer-term satisfactions

Persisting Through Challenges Is the Key to Long-Term Sobriety

In addiction recovery, challenges will inevitably present themselves, testing your resolve and determination. But remember — persistence pays off when undergoing an addiction treatment program.

You might encounter obstacles that seem impossible, like cravings or triggers, but equipping yourself with effective strategies will help you manage them over time.

Recognizing that addiction treatment and recovery aren’t a straight, predictable line allows you to better prepare yourself mentally for potential hurdles while remaining steadfast in your pursuit of long-term health and happiness.

Chronic relapse doesn’t have to be part of your story. Zinnia Health can help you recognize the warning signs and provide the tools you need to prevent a relapse. Discover the range of care and assistance we offer by reaching out to us at (855) 430-9439. We’re committed to aiding you on your path toward enduring sobriety.

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