Why do people relapse?
By: Naveen Kassamali
Some people relapse in early recovery because they have trouble experiencing pleasure in
activities that they used to love. This is because they might be experiencing anhedonia.
What is anhedonia? It is an “inability to feel pleasure.” Many people experience anhedonia after
they stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs. This is due to two reasons.
Biochemical and Mental Health.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for pleasurable emotions, motivation of
repeated behaviors, and keeping us alive. Continuous use of alcohol or drugs causes dopamine
to stop being produced naturally. In early sobriety, the brain is not naturally producing domaine,
and because of the lack of drugs, you are unable to chemically produce dopamine. This can
cause someone to revert back to old behaviors, and old coping mechanisms.
Depression and anxiety can increase in early sobriety. A lot of times clients ingest drugs or
alcohol to suppress or escape from anxious and depressive thoughts, or moods. When you no
longer are using drugs or alcohol as a means to escape, then the anxiety can seem
overwhelming. This could potentially lead someone to relapse.
How can we prevent relapse?
Intense workouts can help you increase your dopamine levels naturally. This helps with
anhedonia. It is important for the brain to create dopamine naturally for long-term sustainable
Preventing relapse includes adopting new behaviors, new routines, and learning new coping
skills. Therapy can also help you learn to manage uncomfortable emotions by teaching distress
Going to a therapist, or entering an outpatient facility will help you to understand addiction,
reasons for addictive patterns, and learn new coping skills. Therapy can aid you in your
recovery by helping you uncover limited beliefs that cause repeated unhealthy patterns, and
assist you to stop repeating these patterns. When you lean on these new healthy coping skills,
you will be less likely to relapse.