Drug and Alcohol - Relapse Prevention - Trends and Statistics

Heroin Relapse Rates

Heroin relapse rates may seem frightening, but recovery is possible - people do it every day! Read how our individualized treatments can help!

What Do We Know About Heroin Relapse Rates?

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

August 18, 2021

The Edge Treatment Center

It’s no secret that America is in the throes of a ravaging opioid epidemic, and heroin has been on the front lines for most of the devastating carnage. In 2017, nearly 100,000 people used heroin. However, over 11 million reported misusing prescription opioids like morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and Vicodin, during that same year. Because prescription opioids can often represent a slippery slope for heroin use, heroin statistics are likely to continue increasing. While we are becoming more societally aware of the ramifications of addiction, treatment continues to be a complicated paradigm. Both individuals and their loved ones should understand the nuances of heroin relapse rates. Because the substance is so potent, it is essential to be prepared for an arduous journey.

Why Does Heroin Relapse Happen?

Heroin is an incredibly powerful substance that can trigger addiction within just one or a few uses. That’s because heroin floods the system with dopamine (many users describe this as the “rush”), which creates an intense sense of euphoria, pleasure, and even serenity (often called “nodding”). Chronic use of heroin creates tolerance. That means once the individual attempts to reduce or abstain from use, he or she experiences distressing withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include severe body aches and pains, intense cravings, depression and anxiety, and flu-like reactions. To avoid these withdrawal symptoms, many people continue using opioids- even if they want to stop. It is important to know that relapse does not always have a clear, defined trigger. While some people may start using due to environmental or physical situations, others may relapse due to emotional states or other co-occurring conditions. Many people fall into a vicious cycle of chronic relapse. They may be able to accomplish several short periods of sobriety, but they struggle to sustain long-term recovery.

What Are The Heroin Relapse Rates?

Unfortunately, there is limited research on the specific heroin relapse rates in America. One study found that 72-88% of individuals receiving inpatient treatment relapsed within 12-36 months. However, a six-month controlled study focusing on long-term aftercare and clinical services showed a 32-70% relapse rate. One study examining women who spent longer than six months in treatment found that upwards of 70% of participants remained sober 6-12 months in posttreatment measures.

Avoiding Relapse

Because addiction is different for everyone, recovery needs to be individualized and unique to each person’s needs. For example, some people will benefit from an abstinence-only approach. This may include involvement in 12-Step programs and psychotherapy. The goal of this approach is simple because it’s black-and-white: avoid taking heroin and any other narcotic or mood-altering substances at any cost. Others will benefit from Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in place of traditional abstinence plans. Medication like naltrexone and sublocade can help reduce cravings and act as a powerful agent in blocking the positive effects of opioids should the individual relapse. All modes of recovery entail physical and emotional healing. Individuals will need to learn healthier coping skills to manage daily stress and potential cravings. They will also need to learn how to implement appropriate boundaries when interacting with people who may be directly or inadvertently associated with drug use. It should be noted that relapse is not a sign of failure. It can be a routine part of the process, and it’s essential to learn from the experience instead of only judging oneself for it.

Seeking Treatment For Heroin Addiction

While the heroin relapse rates may seem frightening, recovery is possible, and people achieve it every day. At The Edge, we specialize in creating and implementing effective treatment for individuals struggling with addiction. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you or your loved one.

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