How to Support Someone Experiencing a Relapse

Friday, November 22, 2019 at 1:01 pm in
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There are many harmful stereotypes and much misinformation about how to treat a loved one who struggles with addiction and relapse. If you have someone in your life who is dealing with a relapse, don’t panic. There’s no need to cut that person off with tough love, or to max out your credit card shipping them off to a destination rehab. 

Here are some facts on relapse and how to support someone through it.

Understanding relapse

Here’s what happens medically when someone relapses and why it can be so dangerous. It has to do with tolerance. When a person stops using a given drug, their tolerance for that drug drops, which puts them at risk for overdose if they relapse. To explain further, if a person has stayed abstinent from opioids for a while (whether using medications for treatment or not), their tolerance for opioids such as heroin substantially declines, putting them at a high risk of overdose if they go back to using their old dosages. 

As someone with addiction progresses toward recovery, relapse can happen, just as symptoms can flare up during treatment for any other chronic disease, like diabetes or hypertension. A relapse doesn’t mean someone has failed or didn’t try hard enough.

The brain has been rewired by the drug use, making relapse a potential part of addiction. Addiction is a medical illness. It’s not really about willpower.

How to best support someone experiencing a relapse.

The best way to support someone having a relapse is to be there to offer empathy, remove shame, and show love. Just as we wouldn’t shame someone with a recurrence of cancer, we should not shame people with a recurrence of substance use.

We all need help sometimes, and the best help anyone can get is a genuine, compassionate connection from another person. The best thing to do is love them, support them, encourage them to get treatment, and be understanding to their struggle.

Also be prepared for an emergency. If your loved one is addicted to opioids, be sure to keep a naloxone kit on-hand at all times. This FDA-approved, easy-to-use medication can reverse an opioid overdose in minutes. 

If you, or someone you care about, is experiencing a relapse, call us. We can get them into the right treatment program based on their individual circumstances.

Call us today at 330-330-8777 or use our contact form and we will get in touch with you.