Are You Concerned About Relapsing During Your Opioid Addiction Recovery?

Opioid Addiction

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Opioid addiction is a condition that can have an impact on an individual’s life, but with a personalised recovery plan and the support of expert medical professionals, your addiction can be overcome. However, the chronic nature of addiction means that many individuals may relapse and recommence their opioid use at some point during their recovery. In fact, research has indicated that among individuals intending to abstain from using these substances, between 65-70% will relapse within the first year.1

A wide range of circumstances may see an individual relapse, but it’s important to remember that relapse doesn’t mark the end of your road to recovery. With the assistance of trained medical professionals and the range of support systems available through Turn to Help, your opioid addiction and relapse may be effectively addressed. 

opioid addiction relapse

Why Is Opioid Relapse Dangerous?

Of all substances consumed by individuals, opiates (in their various forms) and alcohol are viewed to be among the most addictive, and they cause significant risks to public health.1 This is because addiction to these drugs may impact an individual’s life, and opioids in particular are highly addictive.2 Upon use, opioids release chemicals in the brain that alter perceptions of pain and increase feelings of euphoria, making for a pleasurable experience.2

When an individual begins to use opioids consistently, the brain gradually becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug, known as tolerance.2 This means that in order to feel the same effects of the drug, a greater quantity will need to be consumed.2 However, when you begin your path to recovery and initially abstain from using opioids, this tolerance diminishes.3 
As a result, relapsing after a period without using opioids may expose you to a heightened risk of overdose, because your body might no longer be able to tolerate the same dosage of opioids that it is used to.4 Nevertheless, relapse is a normal process that individuals often face at some point in their recovery.4

Reasons People Relapse On Their Opioid Addiction

Opioid relapse is a complex issue that may occur as a consequence of several different factors, ranging from personal factors like mental health challenges to issues of a lack of support or overconfidence. Understanding these reasons can be instrumental in preventing relapse and providing effective support to individuals in recovery.

One significant factor that may contribute to a relapse is the presence of mental health challenges, such as anxiety.5 These conditions are often experienced at the same time, because opioid addiction has been recognised to have a bi-directional relationship with depression.6 

However, relapse may also occur if an individual is not receiving the support they need to overcome their opioid addiction. If you do not have a reliable support network you may lack the guidance and encouragement you need to tackle difficult moments, leaving you feeling isolated and vulnerable. This may be particularly problematic because social isolation and loneliness have been cited as strong predictors of depression, which is connected with a greater risk of opioid use and related addiction.7 

Nevertheless, your relapse may occur in a vastly different situation where a sense of overconfidence sets in. In the early stages of recovery, individuals may develop a feeling of control after successfully completing a period of abstinence. This may then lead them to an overly confident state in which they believe they have the ability to use opioids in moderation. These euphoric feelings may lead an individual to relapse, which may cause them to believe their opioid use is no longer as problematic as it once was. 

Conversely, some individuals may encounter difficult periods in which the feelings of withdrawal they experience result in physical and psychological discomfort. The fear of experiencing these symptoms may drive individuals to relapse, resulting in a troubling cycle where opioid use provides temporary relief that can only be sustained by continued doses.

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Relapsing?

It’s important to recognise the risk factors associated with opioid relapse, but remember that relapse is a normal part of recovery.4 There are a range of support systems available to help you overcome your opioid addiction, and you can engage in a number of proactive steps to reduce your risk of relapse. 

relapse

To start, you may wish to consider why your opioid addiction arose in the first place. Individuals often turn to opioids as a method to deal with mental health issues or escape from the stress they face. Alternatively, your addiction may have arisen as a coping mechanism to deal with loneliness or hardship, or perhaps it is a way of coping with unresolved trauma. Reflecting upon your initial opioid use can provide you with great insight, and the help of a medical professional may assist you in this process. 

The Turn To Help website can assist you in connecting with a nearby doctor who has experience assisting individuals with opioid addiction. With their specialist approach and ability to provide meaningful support, you can delve into the root cause of your addiction. Consultations with a doctor may also provide a helpful outlet to relieve frustrations and voice concerns, whilst also giving you actionable advice that’s personalised to your situation. 

The Turn To Help website can help you locate a nearby doctor who can assist you in creating an individualised plan of action that is designed to help you achieve your goals, reduce your risk of relapse and support you in overcoming your opioid addiction.

References: 1. Kadam, M., Sinha, A., Nimkar, S., Matcheswalla, Y., & De Sousa, A. (2017). A Comparative Study of Factors Associated with Relapse in Alcohol Dependence and Opioid Dependence. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 39(5). 627–633. https://doi.org/10.4103%2FIJPSYM.IJPSYM_356_17. 2. Mayo Clinic. 2023. How opioid use disorder occurs. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/in-depth/how-opioid-addiction-occurs/art-20360372#:~:text=Drug%20addiction%20is%20defined%20as,trigger%20the%20release%20of%20endorphins. Accessed 14 December 2023. 3. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. 2014. National Guidelines for Medication-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Dependence. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/national-guidelines-for-medication-assisted-treatment-of-opioid-dependence.pdf. 4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2023. Treatment and Recovery. Available at: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery. Accessed December 14 2023. 5. American Psychiatric Association. Opioid Use Disorder. Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/opioid-use-disorder. Accessed 24 May 2024. 6. Tumenta, T., Ugwendum, D. F., Chobufo, M. D., Mungu, E. B., Kogan, I., & Olupona, T. (2021). Prevalence and Trends of Opioid Use in Patients With Depression in the United States. Cureus, 13(5), e15309. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.15309. 7. Christie, N. (2021). The role of social isolation in opioid addiction. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 16(7). 645–656. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsab029.