There’s hope. Partly because the effects of repeated treatments tend to be cumulative — most patients are learning something important from each.

Mantrap RoomMy cousin has been addicted to crack cocaine for ten years.  He is a chronic relapser.  He’s been to rehab 3 times in the past year. What do you recommend for chronic relapsers?   Is there any hope?”

Sure there’s hope. Partly because the effects of repeated treatments tend to be cumulative — most patients are learning something important from each, and also from their relapses. I believe it’s not uncommon for some patients to go through treatment 8-10 times before it ‘takes’. But the best and safest way to address chronic relapse is through a long-term residential program — say, a year or more.

Some patients are ready to make that sort of commitment, and others require an intervention. Given his reported history of relapse, outpatient treatment probably isn’t an option. So the question becomes: where can we find residential treatment of sufficient length to benefit him, and second, how can we convince him to go?

Here’s some helpful resources on this site:

Finding the Best Addiction Treatment for Your Needs

Shopping for Treatment

Intervention and Publicly-Funded Rehab

Introduction to Intervention: You Can Do It


There is ALWAYS HOPE. I think I went to 17 facilities in a 4yr period. Honestly I wasn’t even trying to get clean the last time, I just wanted to stay out of jail! Somehow the miracle happened and everything I’d ever heard came into my head. For the first time I had Hope that #recovery was possible for ME. Hold on keep praying.

Comment by Mardi — March 9, 2016 @ 10:03 am

Thanks, Lisa. You’re right, there’s a definite stigma attached to repeated relapses. I’ve noticed that it seeps into the thinking of the addict, who begins to view himself (even if he won’t admit it) as a big-time failure. And of course those who care about him — friends, family, etc. — and those assigned to work with him — the Courts, therapists, etc. — get pretty frustrated, which just reinforces it. Even if they try to hide it, the addict surely knows.

I was in Texas recently talking to a group of inpatients. One raised his hand to ask about the prognosis for somebody with 34 previous treatments. The group laughed, of course, because he was talking about himself. I pointed out that most addicts relapsed before they finally ‘got it’, so he was unusual only in the total number. Then I advised him that the solution lay not so much in exploration of the the dim past, but in what he was doing and thinking now — the decisions he made in the immediate present. They probably weren’t real good ones. He was planning on going to a longer-term residential program, which surely seemed like a good idea to me. But I imagine he’ll go in expecting to fail.

All I’d remind him is that most addicts are ‘failures’ in recovery — until they aren’t. And often no one is more surprised at success than they.

Comment by C. Scott McMillin — February 1, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

The more I read your content, the more I learn. You really have an informative site.
What I’ve seen in my clients is that a chronic relapser had a dual recovery of sorts: Recovery from addictive substance and recovery from being a relapser. I see they have an additional stigma to overcome. Is this true? Or am I just imagining this? I would be interested in your professional view on this. I got and stayed sober the first “official” time I tried. (The hell of the first go through was enough for me.) Any thoughts are appreciated. I am working on an OP-ED so your timing of this post is perfect.
with abundant thanks, Lisa

Comment by Lisa Neumann — February 1, 2013 @ 10:57 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment


Subscribe to RecoverySI via Email

Join 769 other subscribers

Most Viewed

Painkillers, from Two Sides

RecoverySI on Twitter