Unfortunately, relapse is a frequent occurrence in the world of addiction and recovery. Many people struggle with sobriety, and the temptation to pick back up again often wins out. But this can be dangerous, and even deadly, for some people. Opiate addicts in particular run a high risk of overdose when they use after a period of sobriety. Here’s why.
Background- Tolerance and Dependence
The phenomenon of tolerance is the primary reason that relapse can be so dangerous. When a person uses any drug, including alcohol, on a regular basis, their tolerance for that drug increases. Tolerance means that the person’s response to a drug changes with repeated use. In the case of opiates such as heroin, repeated activation of the opiate receptors in the brain functionally desensitizes them. Your brain gets used to receiving the drug on a regular basis, and adapts to it, so that if you kept using the same amount as when your addiction started, you would eventually stop getting the same effect from the drug. This is why most users tend to increase the amount they use as they progress throughout their addiction. Particularly with opiates, this adaptation also means that unless you continue increasing the amount you use, your brain will demand more and more of the drug, and smaller amounts of the drug are insufficient for preventing withdrawal.
It’s not a secret that opiate addicts have a difficult time getting sober because of the withdrawal symptoms that occur when drug use stops. These symptoms can include anxiety, muscle aches, insomnia, sweating, digestive distress, vomiting, and abdominal cramping. These effects can be extreme, and highly uncomfortable for the user. But, there are many medications that can reduce or dampen these effects, and when an addict goes to a licensed treatment facility for addiction treatment, they can often avoid the more extreme of these symptoms, and get the necessary distance they need to start building up some time in sobriety. However, that’s where tolerance comes back into the picture. When an opiate addict has some time without using heroin or their drug of choice, their tolerance goes back down. The brain readjusts and adapts to NOT getting the drug, and tolerance decreases. The problem comes if the addict decides to pick up again after a period of sobriety. Their tolerance has decreased, but many users are unaware of this factor, and go immediately back to using the same increased amount that they were using prior to getting sober. This can be deadly, because the amount of drug far exceeds the tolerance the person has built up, and overdose is almost inevitable. These effects can happen with almost any drug, including alcohol and even caffeine, but heroin and most opiates are so strong that they carry a higher level of danger.
Help is Available
Don’t let relapse be a part of your story. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the professional staff at Serenity Acres is ready to help, and can give you the tools you need to stay sober. Call today for your free confidential assessment, to see if inpatient treatment may be the answer you are looking for: 1-800-203-2024.