While relapse may be common among addicts, it may also make it seem as though the cycle of drug abuse is inevitable and unending. The cycle of addiction, however, is not always unending — it just takes a long time for the brain to heal. When the levels of important chemicals are measured in the brains of users who are at various stages of abstinence, it has been suggested that the newly abstinent users have lower levels of these chemicals. This can change with addiction treatment. The longer the addict is without drugs, the more the brain chemistry returns to a relative state of normalcy.
The main issue is that the return to ‘normal’ after a relapse may take a very long time, months, or years. There is evidence that the rate of return varies with the individual. So, we have to cope with the fact that healing from addiction takes a longer period of time than most can spend in treatment. Alternately, we can develop new ways, approaches, or techniques that allow some form of treatment to extend for a long time. It’s more like a lifestyle change. The particulars of this are left up to the addict and his or her treatment professionals. Getting everyone on board with this duration issue has to happen before we can realistically address the problem.
Acceptance may hold the key. If somebody is already an addict, They need to find a way to get off drugs and minimize the damage they cause. To do that, they likely need the help of a professional. It can be a long battle. If you are worried that you or someone you know may become or is becoming an addict, then assess pre-existing vulnerabilities. Are you worried about a genetic load or predisposition to drug use? Are you in a difficult environment where drugs are freely available? These vulnerabilities need to be assessed, perhaps with a professional, so that your behavior can be adjusted to keep you safe from relapse.
Drug addiction can be complex, long-lasting, and complicated to treat. Relapse prevention can encompass a number of activities that include behavioral and lifestyle changes as well as taking medications. No disease is easy to deal with and the vulnerability towards getting sick again and relapsing may always be there. Staying sober requires self-awareness, vigilance, persistent effort, and treatment that works.