Ben Affleck wearing a suit and tie at a movie premier

What We Can Learn from Ben Affleck’s Alcohol Addiction Relapse

On March 15th 2017, actor Ben Affleck created a Facebook post where announced he had completed rehab treatment for the second time in order to overcome his alcohol addiction. Affleck wrote that alcoholism is something he has dealt with in the past and will continue to confront. The actor first entered rehab for alcohol addiction in 2001 when he was 29 years old. Affleck’s message is an important reminder that alcohol addiction relapse is a common scenario that many people who are battling addictions face during their road to recovery.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that all forms of addiction are a chronic, relapsing brain disease, which means that relapsing is not only possible but even likely. Let us look at some of the important facts about alcohol addiction relapse.

Alcohol addiction relapse after treatment is a common occurrence

The majority of people who are treated for alcohol addiction experience a relapse. A study in 2001 reported that during the first year following addiction treatment, only around a quarter of people were able to abstain from alcohol. However, the study believed that it is too simple to put people into one of two categories – those who relapse and those who abstain since they found that it is possible for people to make progress even if they do relapse.

The study also concluded that even if recovering addicts did not completely refrain from alcohol, the majority of people are able to significantly reduce their alcohol consumption, and abstain for longer periods of time.

The longer people can refrain from drinking, the higher their chances of remaining sober

The risk of alcohol addiction relapse reduces the longer a person can continue to stay sober. According to Medscape, fewer than 20% of people abstain for an entire year, about 40% of people who stay away from alcohol for two years in a row will relapse, and those who abstain for five years are more likely to stay sober for good, though they are still at risk. This stresses the importance of realising that treatment does not end just because a person becomes sober. Recovery requires continued dedication to staying sober on a daily basis, especially when stresses occur, as well as an effective relapse prevention plan.

Alcohol and stress cues can lead to alcohol addiction relapse

Any recovering addict knows that there are many factors that can lead to relapse, such as alcohol cues like seeing other people drink or watching an alcohol advertisement. Stress and other negative emotions are also common relapse triggers. A review paper in 2012 suggested that stress can lead to a risk of alcohol relapse because the area of the brain that is involved in emotions, such as stress and anxiety, may intersect with the areas that are responsible for the reward effects of alcohol. The researchers of the review believe that chronic alcohol use may alter the way the brain in a way that increases a person’s reaction to stress, which may increase the chance of relapse.

A person’s brain activity can determine whether relapse will occur

People who experience alcohol addiction relapse after receiving treatment may have different brain activity patterns than those who are able to stay sober. A study by JAMA Psychiatry in 2013 found that individuals who are addicted to alcohol who displayed higher levels of activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex were up to eight times more inclined to relapse during a three-month period in comparison to those who displayed regular levels of activity in the same area.

While it is not definite whether the increased brain activity is the reason for relapse since there could be other factors that could cause the activity and relapse, scientists are aware that the prefrontal cortex plays a role in controlling emotions and subduing urges. The studies researches believe that it is a possibility that alcohol addiction could cause changes in this area that alter a person’s ability to monitor their cravings and resist relapse.

Relapse should not be seen as a failure

It is important to understand that a person’s relapse does not mean that their treatment has failed. Since addiction is a chronic disease, there may be instances when a person’s symptoms reoccur, just like with other chronic diseases. Instead of seeing relapse as a failure, it is better for people to view relapse as a message that a person may need to reinitiate or adjust their treatment methods or try another treatment instead.

Affleck also mentioned in his post I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be the source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step. He ended with, this was the first of many steps being taken towards a positive recovery.

Get the help you need at The Dawn Alcohol Rehab Thailand

The Dawn offers affordable and effective treatment programmes that can help you or someone you love overcome alcohol and drug addiction. Our purpose built rehab and wellness centre has been designed to create an environment of personal growth, peace, and healing for those who are looking to make a change in their lives. Contact us today to receive a no obligations assessment and find out how we can help you.