Opioid Relapse Rates

Why Are Opioid Relapse Rates So High?

The percentage is downright discouraging, pushing upwards of 90%, this is the percentage of people who are receiving addiction treatment for opiates and heroin, and then afterwards end up going back out and getting high. After being in a treatment program (most inpatient programs are for 30+ days) the temptation of returning to using drugs is extremely high. The most crucial months for recovery are those early months. If a strict program is not followed, if recovery is not the number one priority, and if the individual is not wanting to stay sober than relapse is the result more times than not.


Why Do People Relapse on Opiates?

Opioid drugs like prescription painkillers and heroin activate the mesolimbic system of the brain. This system is strongly associated with the reward and condition center. The release of dopamine triggered by the opioid use activate parts of the brain connected with intense feelings of pleasure. These feelings are what the recovering addict is craving in times of relapse.

Taking all the fancy wording out- opioid drugs create great feelings of bliss for the user and this is a common reason why the cravings are so strong. People love the feeling of euphoria, and as we can see with these relapse statistics, will do anything to get that feeling again. Even if they know what a dark path addiction leads to, that feeling is so intense and longed after, that those who are sober will often choose the drugs over their sobriety to feel that euphoria again.

Those who have chronically used the drugs for a prolonged period of time have actually changed their brain’s dynamic in response to drugs, making their brain more susceptible to dependency and addiction. Even when people are being medically prescribed opioids the chance of dependency is always there.

Traditional 12-Step Programs teach abstinence from the drug completely, but success rates from addiction treatment are failing. There are new medication assisted treatment (MAT) plans in place that are said to cut the relapse rate in half, but still even with those statistics that means that 45% of active opioid users will use again even after getting clean. The cravings are said to stop with medication assisted therapy programs, with a maintenance program and therapy this finally gives an individual a chance to get to the root cause of their addiction.

What Happens After Relapse?

Most individuals after a relapse will experience feelings of shame and discouragement. After being substance free for so long, and gaining all the things back that life in sobriety has to offer, falling off the wagon is an unpleasant and emotional experience. Everyone is disappointed, the user is ashamed and often times regretful.

Treatment for Relapse

A successful opioid addiction treatment program will have a variety of therapies and care plans dependent on the individual. Anyone who is seeking treatment after a relapse should get help from an addiction treatment center who has an individualized treatment plan made special for them. When dealing with opioid dependency, there are many factors that go into relapse. All treatment centers have slightly different programs. At The Best Treatment Center, we believe in healing the mind, body and spirit. We believe in a relaxed atmosphere and see great results in our program because of this intimate setting and an extremely low client to staff ratio.

For more information call us today:

Call us:   1-888-4TBTNOW

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.