Relapse Rates After Treatment
Natural Remission = Relapse
While individuals who achieve natural remission are more likely to relapse than those who had sought treatment, relapse rates for those who completed drug treatment programs still exist. Relapse, defined, is the return to any amount of substance abuse—however, it is usually heavy and destructive use. According to Moos and Moos, long-term relapse rates are difficult to pinpoint and vary between 20 and 80 percent. These numbers are quite depressing. In fact, less than one percent of recovering addicts will stay sober for five years.2
Treatment = Lesser Risk of Relapse
Staying sober is a difficult task, as an addictive disorder is a chronic condition. According to Stephen Gilman, M.D., there is no cure; therefore, there is always the risk of relapse.1 It needs to be managed over time. Ongoing outpatient treatment can increase sobriety, and depending on the substance, so can medication management.1 Temptation can also be a reason to return to inpatient treatment, as some of the tools the person learned to stay sober may need more practice before they are ready to return home.1 Learning constructive activities to do instead of using—such as taking a walk, talking with a sober friend, or exercising—is important to staying sober.1
Regarding risk factors, they vary from person to person.1 For some, it is the powerful need to stimulate the reward centers of the brain.1 For others, feeling stressed out or depressed can trigger a relapse.1 If left untreated, mental disorders can play a large role in relapsing. For example, persons struggling with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are at a greater risk of relapse, as 50 percent of those patients struggle with a substance use disorder and may even be looking to cope with their mental disease.1 Happy events, such as weddings and holidays, can trigger relapse as well, due to social stress; however, so can sad events, as substances are used as coping mechanisms.1
 Foster, Linda. “Understanding Addiction Relapse.” Everyday Health. EverydayHealth.com, 28 Dec. 2012. Web. 1 Feb. 2013. <http://www.everydayhealth.com/addiction/understanding-addiction-relapse.aspx>.
 Moos, Rudolf, and Bernice Moos. “Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1976118/ Relapse.