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Why Does Relapse Occur?

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It’s not uncommon for a person in recovery from Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) to begin using opioids again. An important thing to remember is that because OUD is a mental health issue, recurrence of symptoms (resumption of opioid use) is not a moral failure and you can take steps to get back on the path of recovery. In fact, recovery professionals are turning away from the term "relapse" because it has a tendency to create the stigma of failure.


So, why do people in recovery resume taking opioids? Continued use of opioids causes changes in the brain that lead to dependence. Even after a person achieves abstinence, there these changes, while reduced, can be long lasting so that cravings and compulsions to use can remain.


While everyone has different symptoms, there are some common triggers to resumption of opioid use. Some of these include:


  • Stress
    • It can come from both positive and negative events in your life. Maybe you lost your job or maybe you have a new job in which you have gained more responsibility. The use of opioids might seem to relieve that stress because they release dopamine to your system and that makes you feel good and releases the stress.

  • Keeping up old routines
    • This includes keeping friendships which can create situations in which you used dugs before. Ending or pulling back from these friendships is difficult but avoiding the familiar scenes in which you obtained and used drugs is a positive step in maintaining your sobriety. The best policy here is to build a good support group around you. If you are or have been in a Medication Assisted Treatment program, you can get in touch with your doctor or counselor.

  • Just this one time
    • Once you have been through recovery and been sober for a while you can have the tendency to believe that you no longer suffer from OUD and that you can handle taking opiates again. This is a dangerous outlook and there is a great chance that the ripple effect will lead you back to continued use of the drug.

Remember, if you do begin using opioids again don’t beat yourself up. It is not a failure of character. It’s a symptom of your chronic mental health issue of OUD. Stay in touch with people in your support system and/ or contact your recovery professionals.

Dale Willenbrink
Get Help Fighting Opioid Addiction Today

If you’ve been worried about a loved one, or if you’re concerned about the way you use your pain medication, we urge you to contact us as soon as possible for help. To take the first step, contact us online or call 855-993-0960  right away.

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