Chance of Relapse After Alcohol Rehab

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Relapse after alcohol rehab is a common problem during the recovery process 

A 2021 article reviewed by Andrew Proulx, MD, about Alcohol Abuse, shows that the highest chance of relapse after alcohol rehab is in the first year30% of recovering alcoholics relapse in the recovery process [1].  

The reasons for the high rate of relapse during the first year after alcohol rehab are [1] 

  1. Failure to seek additional help after alcohol rehab. 
  2. Overconfidence.  
  3. Stress  
  4. Denial  
  5. Depression  

According to (study or reference here) Different types of relapses exist, including:  

  1. Short-term slips: A single instance of drinking after maintained sobriety.  
  2. Lapses: An instance where the alcoholic has had several drinks but hasn’t resumed previous levels of drinking.  
  3. Long-term relapses: When you return to the habit of alcohol abuse after rehab.  

Even the most dedicated recovering alcoholic can experience slips and relapses at some point in the recovery process.  

Alcoholic relapse occurs in three stages: [12] 

Stage 1: Emotional Relapse  

The person is not thinking about alcohol. But their thought patterns and actions set them up for failure.  

Stage 2: Mental relapse  

A person with a mental relapse is facing an internal struggle. Part of them wants to remain sober, but the other part wants to drink.  

Stage 3: Physical relapse  

This is a person who resumes the previous habit of drinking regularly.  

Relapse Rate After Alcohol Rehab  

Relapse rate is one way to measure of success or failure of an alcohol rehab programme. It is not uncommon for people to relapse after rehab

The National Institute on Drug Abuse view relapse as a normal part of the recovery process. [10] 

Different surveys report differing rates of alcoholic relapse.  

A survey on alcohol addiction relapse rates by The Recovery Village, reviewed by Stacey Henson, LCSW, ACSW [2]  showed that: 

  • 21.4% of recovering alcoholics relapsed in the second year of recovery.  
  • 9.6% relapsed in the third to fifth year. 
  • 7.2% relapsed after five years in recovery.  
  • Those who have been sober for 2 years have a relapse rate of 40%.  
  • More than 70% of alcoholics will relapse at some point.  

A 2006 study about rates and predictors of relapse in NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) published by Rudolf & Bernice Moos [3showed that chance of relapse varied by 20% to 50%, depending on the severity of the addiction.  

A person who manages to stay sober for five years has a less than 15% chance of a relapse.[3] 

Also, 80% of people will relapse before they recover from alcohol use disorder. [4] 

A study by Waltzer & Dearing published on Science Direct [9on gender differences in relapse rates, shows that relapse rates were similar across gender.

Gender, however, did moderate the association between marriage and relapse rate[9]  

Whereas marriage lowered the risk of relapse among men, it heightened the risk for women. For women, marriage and marital stress were a risk factor for alcoholic relapse.  

What Are the Odds of Getting Sober?  

Getting and staying sober depends on your level of commitment to sobriety.  

People who admit to alcohol rehab treatment have a higher chance of getting sober than people who try to detox from alcohol at home 

The 2006 study about rates and predictors of relapse by Rudolf and Bernice Moos [3showed that those who did not receive treatment were less likely to remain sober within three years.   

The difference between people who received no alcohol treatment versus those who received treatment for alcohol abuse had to do with coping skills [3].

Aftercare facilities such as Alcoholics Anonymous impart coping skills and provide a support system that increases the odds of getting sober [3].  

Types of alcohol treatment centre offering aftercare support are: 

  • Sober living homes  
  • Facility-based programmes 
  • Private addiction counselling 
  • Therapy and counselling sessions 

A study by Public Health England (PHE)  between April 2017 and March 2018 [5shows that 4 out of 5 alcohol-dependent adults are not getting any treatment for alcohol addiction 

Adults seeking treatment for alcohol addiction have declined since 2013, making the risk of alcoholic relapse and alcohol-related problems high [5].  

Alcohol addiction recovery rates vary depending on the treatment facility. 

  • Private clinics across the UK are the best performing with 60% to 80% success rate. [6] 
  • The least performing facilities struggled to attain a 20% success rate. 
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) reports a 50% success rate. [7] 

There have been instances where people were sober for two decades and relapsed. [8] 

There’s insufficient data on whether people who get sober actually stay sober. Or if anyone is ever free of addiction or if there’s always a risk of relapse.  

The longer you stay sober, the higher your chances of staying sober 

It’s a myth to believe that people who seek treatment are ‘cured’ from addiction.

The reality is that alcohol use disorder treatment involves consistent aftercare follow up, personalised counselling, and coaching with a sponsor. 

Integrating medical detox, therapeutic care, and holistic treatment methods has been shown to have a higher success rate in treating alcohol use disorder 

Article Sources:

1. Facts and Statistics about Alcohol Abuse in the United States; By The Recovery Village, Editor Melissa Carmona, Medically Reviewed By Andrew Proulx, MD, Updated on 04/27/21

2. Alcohol Use Survey Reveals Risks Before, During and After an Addiction; By The Recovery Village, Editor Melissa Carmona, Medically Reviewed By Stacey Henson, LCSW, ACSW, Updated on 07/02/21

3. Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders; Rudolf H. Moos, Bernice S. Moos; Published in final edited form as: Addiction. 2006 Feb; 101(2): 212–222. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01310.x

4. 5 Alcohol Addiction Statistics to Give You Hope; Written By: Sprout Editorial Team

5. What we’ve learned from the latest alcohol and drug treatment statistics. By Rosanna O’Connor, Posted on:1 November 2018 -

6. The role of residential rehab in an integrated treatment system. By Paul Hayes, NTA Chief Executive

7. Alcoholics Anonymous 2014 Membership Survey

8. How Often Do Long-Term Sober Alcoholics and Addicts Relapse? By Omar Manejwala M.D. February 13, 2014, Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

9. Gender differences in alcohol and substance use relapse. Clinical Psychology Review 26 (2006) 128 – 148. By Kimberly S. Walitzer *, Ronda L. Dearing

10. NIDA. Treatment and Recovery. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. July 10, 2020 Accessed July 15, 2021.

12. Melemis SM. Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. Yale J Biol Med. 2015;88(3):325-332. Published 2015 Sep 3.

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.