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Opioid Use Disorder Relapse

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When people are in recovery for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), it is not uncommon for them to experience a relapse. Between 40% and 60% of individuals relapse within the first year of treatment, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In fact, some may relapse several times before completing the recovery process, or even relapse years after their recovery.


While relapse is discouraging for everyone involved, it is important to know that relapse is not a sign of failed recovery. If it happens, recognize that you are traveling on an unfamiliar path of behavior and you can get back on the path of recovery.

One way to prevent relapse is to recognize the things that can trigger it.

  • Stress

Is there a financial situation, a problem in a relationship, a difficult job at work? Try to evaluate things that are causing stress in your life and then make the necessary changes in your lifestyle, relationships, or priorities.

  • Situations connected to addictive behavior

There are certain people, places or events that can remind you of your opioid use. You can prepare for these situations ahead of time to keep you from being vulnerable to relapse. Creating a daily routine, participating in regular healthy activities and building a positive support group can help to keep you on the road to recovery.

  • Negative emotions

Hunger, anger, loneliness and fatigue are common emotions you might feel. It’s okay to have these feelings. The important thing is how you deal with them. Try and understand what you are feeling by writing in a journal or meditating - say what it is out loud (if even to yourself). Identifying it is half the battle and really helps to then find healthy ways to release those feelings.

Another thing you can do is to develop a relapse prevention plan that includes professional care, healthy activities or hobbies, coping skills and people you can contact when you need support.

If you do relapse, don’t beat yourself up.  Some outpatient recovery programs anticipate that relapse may be a part of your journey and have a system in place to help you regroup.

Try to understand what events led to the relapse and the feelings you had afterward. Contact someone in your support group and/or seek professional help. 



Dale Willenbrink
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