Addiction Relapse Rates Compared to Those for Other Chronic Illnesses
The fact that addiction is a chronic disease characterized by relapse isn’t a license for despair. On the contrary, take a look at how addiction stacks up next to other chronic diseases, and you’ll be encouraged to seek help (if you haven’t already):
When a loved one, family member or friend is struggling with addiction, the see-saw journey of recovery often seems fraught with disappointment, setbacks, relapse and recommitting to sobriety. It may seem an impossible goal for the addicted individual to get and stay sober. Yet addiction is a chronic relapsing disease, just like cancer, hypertension, diabetes and asthma. Knowledge of addiction relapse rates as comparable to other chronic illness relapse rates may provide a ray of hope that effective recovery is possible.
DRUG ADDICTION RELAPSE RATES
Relapse rates for drug addiction are comparable to those for other chronic relapsing diseases. According to a 2014 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) rates of relapse for drug addiction range from 40 to 60 percent.
Relapse rates among those with alcohol addiction were just over 40 percent among those who sought treatment and initially remitted in one study, and 51 percent in asymptomatic risk drinkers who had experienced a recurrence of alcohol use disorder (AUD) symptoms in a Wave 2 study.
Addiction to opiates carries an 85 percent chance of relapse one year after stopping usage.
Crack cocaine is an extremely addictive substance. Users who become addicted face high relapse rates that in one study of adolescent crack users ranged from 66 to 86 percent.
Methamphetamine, specifically crystal meth, is notoriously addictive. Chronic use can lead to not only addiction, but also devastating effects. Meth relapse rate is extremely high at 93 percent. This is due, in part, to prolonged intense cravings for the drug and difficult withdrawal symptoms.
TYPE 1 AND TYPE 2 DIABETES RELAPSE RATES
An infographic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 29.1 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. That’s one in 11 people with the chronic disease. Another 86 million – one of three adults – have prediabetes, and 15 to 30 percent of those with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes within a 5-year period. Relapse rates for type 1 diabetes, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), are between 30 and 50 percent.
A multisite study of long-term remission and relapse in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus after gastric bypass found that 35.1 percent redeveloped diabetes within 5 years. Significant predictors of relapse were identified as poor glycemic control prior to surgery for gastric bypass, insulin use and longer duration of diabetes. Relapse can occur after bariatric surgery if weight is regained.
HYPERTENSION RELAPSE RATES
About 75 million adults in America have high blood pressure, or hypertension. It’s significant that anyone can develop hypertension, which greatly increases the risk for both heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., while stroke is the third leading cause of death.
Information published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that relapse rates for hypertension are between 50 and 70 percent.
ASTHMA RELAPSE RATES
About 22 million Americans have asthma. Like hypertension, relapse rates for asthma range from 50 to 70 percent. Studies have shown that the chronic disease of asthma is more prevalent in Western nations than Eastern countries, has both early and late onset age characteristics, and a heterogenous course of disease development and progression. As one study of participants in Taiwan noted, after onset of the disease, this may include persistence, complete remission, and back and forth between relapse and remission. This same study found a 52 percent relapse rate in early-onset asthma (defined as onset over 12 years of age). Authors noted that this was a higher relapse rate than other longitudinal studies that were conducted in New Zealand and Europe.
CANCER RELAPSE RATES
A cancer diagnosis used to be considered a death sentence. A 2014 study estimated that the number of Americans with a history of cancer still alive in 2024 will be 19 million, compared with nearly 14.5 million in 2014. With more life-saving medications, treatments and interventions, along with lifestyle adjustments and other behavioral therapies, however, life expectancy for cancer patients has significantly increased. Still, cancer is a chronic disease. It also manifests in many different forms, each with unique characteristics, stages, prospects for complete or partial remission, and recurrence or relapse.
Statistics on relapse rates for a few forms of cancer:
- Breast cancer: Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive breast cancer. Left untreated, 40 to 50 percent of DCIS cases may progress to invasive breast cancer.
- Colon cancer: According to data from the American Cancer Society, five-year survival rates for the various stages of colon cancer range from 92 percent (Stage I) to 6 percent (Stage IV). The National Cancer Institute says that while surgery, the primary form of treatment, results in a cure 50 percent of the time, recurrence after surgery for colon cancer is a major problem that often results in death.
- Prostate cancer: Recurrence (relapse) of those with prostate cancer is 20 to 30 percent at some point during their lives. Encouragingly, some 94 percent survive at least 15 years after their initial prostate cancer diagnosis.
- Melanoma: This form of cancer, also called melanoma skin cancer, is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanoma recurs in more than 6 percent of patients after 10 years, occurring in more than one in 20 patients.
TREATMENT, BEHAVIOR MODIFICATIONS, VIGILANCE AND SUPPORT
The recognition that addiction is a chronic relapsing disease with relapse rates comparable to those of other chronic illnesses offers much hope to those suffering with addiction. With proper treatment, behavior modifications, lifestyle changes, vigilance and support, those in addiction can go on to live fulfilling, productive lives. Addiction is never a one and done episode. Often, multiple stays in treatment are necessary before the individual seeking to overcome addiction gains a firm foundation and footing in recovery. That many do is a testament to both their resolve, faith and adherence to evidence-based strategies for maintaining long-term sobriety. In the event they do relapse, there’s a proven approach that can help them get back on the path to sobriety.
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American College of Surgeons, “Melanoma Recurs After 10 Years In More than 6 Percent of Patients.” Retrieved May 1, 2017 https://www.facs.org/media/press%20releases/jacs/melanoma0613
American Diabetes Association, “Infographic: A Snapshot of Diabetes in America.” Retrieved April 30, 2017 http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/cdc-infographic.html
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