The Dangerous Doctrine Of Relapse


-By A. Scott Roberts
M.S. Rehabilitation Counseling, Addiction Specialist

Relapse is often treated as a sign of defeat, instead of a stepping stone through the recovery process.

There couldn't be a more harmful doctrine to an addict than to think that all the days, weeks, months or even years of sobriety didn't mean a thing because he slipped.

When relapse occurs, many 12 step programs and therapy groups are under the impression that you HAVE to start all over again and that you made little to no significant strides. This is dangerous because research tells us that relapse is mostly caused by emotional states, not physical cravings (as once thought).This shows the great improvement one has achieved!

Resolve the emotional underpinnings, cope properly with the cravings, triggers and urges, and you will succeed. To tell an addict that all the days, weeks months or even years of abstinence didn't mean a thing because he slipped, feeds feeds discouragement, depression and despair - the very emotions that lead to using!2

Even brain changes, such as cell regeneration occurred only after a couple weeks of sober living.3 This reveals the TREMENDOUS stride an addict has actually made both physically and psychologically.

Furthermore, research shows that those who obtain long-term sobriety, actually relapsed at least 2-3 times.4

You shouldn't get too discouraged if you slip. Some failure is expected on the road to success. Abstinence, even attempted abstinence, brings power. If you relapse, don't give up, but continue to cultivate your capacity to get there.

As with working toward any worthwhile goal, the road usually contains peaks and troughs.

Successful addiction recovery, should not only address physical symptoms or dependency, but also help the addict to manage thoughts, emotions and moods. Once an addict is free from the drug of choice, they often experience increased feelings of depression and anxiety. To prevent relapse, addressing the negative emotional states and thoughts that creep in, is necessary.

Negative moods and depression are common among recovering addicts because they are either related to the actual depressant effects of alcohol or drugs or the losses experienced in one’s life (e.g., family, job, finances).

Some people continue to experience problems with depression even after they have been sober for some time. This is because the brain has diminished neurotransmitters and receptor availability after long-term over-stimulation of the reward center. When an addict quits, it is hard to immediately bounce back because the reward system is now naturally under-stimulated.

In such cases, it is vitally important to use methods that change and rewire the brain. When neural pathways change, it affects the chemical composition of the brain as well. And feed the brain through proper nutrients to keep neurotransmitter activity balanced.

There are over 100 studies at MIT and Harvard that have confirmed that using amino acids to increase neurotransmitters in subjects led to eliminating depression, cravings, anxiety and stress.5 The very emotions that trigger relapse.

The Truth Of Addiction System shows you what nutrients are best for recovering addicts. You can order here.

-A. Scott Roberts
 M.S. Rehabilitation Counseling


1. Davidson, R. J., and A. Lutz. (2008). “Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation.” IEEE Signal Processsing Magazine (January 1) 25(10):176–174.
2. Littleton, J. (2000). “Can Craving Be Modeled in Animals? The Relapse Prevention Perspective.” Addiction.
3. Spear, L. (2000). “Modeling Adolescent Development and Alcohol Use in Animals.” Alcohol Research & Health 24(2):115–123.
4. Miller, W.R., Rollnick, S. (2000). Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People to Change, 2nd ed. NY: Guilford Press.
5. Littleton, J. (2000). “Can Craving Be Modeled in Animals? The Relapse Prevention Perspective.” Addiction.