According to a recent study, a recovering alcoholic’s risk of relapsing significantly decreases after five years of abstaining from alcohol. The study found that after five years, a recovering alcoholic’s risk of relapse is the same as a general member of the United States’ population risk of developing alcoholism.
Recent data shows that a recovering alcoholic has a 15 percent chance of relapse after five years without alcohol, while a random member of the population has approximately a 14 percent chance of developing an alcohol dependency in the upcoming year.
While studies on long-term remission from alcohol abuse are difficult to interpret and even more difficult to complete, adequate data has now been collected to chart out the course of recovery.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates are the highest in the first two years of treatment, ranging from 40-60 percent, and then drop drastically after five years. There are also known triggers for relapse that are important to avoid during the first couple of years: stress and exposure to alcohol use triggers, such as people, environments, and activities associated with drinking.
Several studies from Valliant, Jin et al, and Dennis et al all support the claim that five years seems to be the magic number in recovery. In all three studies, using a wide range of participants, the researchers demonstrated that following treatment and successful avoidance of alcohol, participants were significantly less likely to relapse.
In Winnipeg, there are several intervention programs available to help individuals addicted to alcohol reach the five-year milestone. The intervention programs are aimed at changing the problem behaviour of an individual and ensuring the problem behaviour does not return.
Kelburn Estates offers an Aftercare Program to provide support to individuals who have just recovered. This includes creating and establishing new routines, working to ensure old habits do not return, and working to relieve stress – all proven causes of relapse.