Last Updated on April 22, 2021
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic and relapsing disease. Medical professionals characterize this condition as a pattern of uncontrolled drinking, and the inability to stop or control alcohol misuse despite its negative impact on your life. Still, too many people perceive alcohol addiction as a moral flaw or a personal failing—especially when someone tries to quit and relapses.
If you struggle with drinking, and you’ve tried to white-knuckle it only to fall back into unhealthy habits, your experience is common. Even attending conventional rehab cannot guarantee you’ll remain relapse-free. It’s important to realize that relapse doesn’t necessarily mean failure. In fact, the statistics may surprise you.
What Is Alcohol Relapse?
An alcohol relapse happens when someone attempts to reduce or stop drinking, and returns to misusing alcohol after a period of sobriety or moderation. Alcohol is a highly addictive substance, and excessive drinking can change your brain’s structure and how it functions.
This transformation leads to withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings for alcohol when changing your habits. Even after you purge the excess alcohol from your system, certain feelings, thoughts, and events can trigger an urge to drink.
Alcohol Relapse Rates and Statistics
According to national surveys, only a third of individuals struggling with alcohol addiction attempt to quit every year. Of these people, just 25 percent1 successfully reduce their alcohol consumption for more than a year afterwards.
Despite your best efforts to stay sober or reduce your alcohol consumption, it’s important to realize that anyone can return to misusing alcohol as a way to cope. Relapse happens, in part, because alcohol use disorder is a chronic condition. Even people who get help, attend a treatment program, and are actively in recovery, can relapse.
Alcohol relapse statistics vary widely in clinical studies. Some research studies estimate relapse rates between 40 and 60 percent2 for people in an alcohol recovery program. These rates are similar to those undergoing treatment for other chronic conditions, like asthma and hypertension. If you’re battling alcohol addiction, these alcohol relapse statistics can be discouraging. Yet, AUD’s chronic nature means that relapse may be part of your ultimate process of getting clean or moderating your alcohol intake.
Rather than avoiding the statistics, relapse can be an incentive for change. Finding the right alcohol treatment program for you raises the likelihood of achieving a good outcome3. Rather than signaling failure, having a single drink or falling back into unhealthy drinking patterns can be a sign that you should try a different alcohol addiction treatment program
Recovery After Relapse
Relapse is a common part of recovery. Just because you’ve tried to change your lifestyle and ended up returning to old habits does not mean that your efforts have failed. Each step or misstep is an opportunity to reach new goals or discover an alternative approach to battling alcohol addiction.
Ria Health is an innovative online alcohol addiction treatment program that can help you reduce your alcohol consumption or stop drinking altogether. Our modern approach removes many of the barriers to seeking help and makes treatment more accessible. Ria is completely private and available from anywhere using the Ria app.
Unlike traditional rehabilitation or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Ria Health takes a practical and individual approach to treating AUD. We’re less focused on getting people to stop drinking forever, and more concentrated on helping you reach your personal recovery goals. Those aspirations could include reducing the amount you drink.
Our evidence-based approach offers many unique features designed explicitly for relapse support:
- Long-term programs: Many members remain with us for up to a year.
- Anti-craving medications: FDA-approved medications like naltrexone can help you gradually reduce or quit alcohol over time, while others like acamprosate can help you stay sober if you’ve quit completely.
- Personalized goals: Some members find that drinking moderately is a more realistic goal than abstaining completely. We customize treatment to your needs.
- Weekly check-ins: A digital breathalyzer tracks your progress, and weekly check-ins with your recovery coach help you understand your patterns and move toward reduction.
- Relapse support: Even if you relapse after quitting or reducing your alcohol consumption, our program can help you get back on track.