Relapsing after decades of recovery is extremely dangerous considering the potency and types of today’s drugs and the fact that there are likely physical limitations now that did not exist for such a person twenty years ago. This is an especially important consideration for those people who used “white” drugs in the seventies such as cocaine and heroin. However, recovery often falters if a person fails to actively work on it over the years or if some major tragedy or stress occurs. Any person who falls off the wagon and hits the streets again looking for the drugs and highs of yesterday will be in for a very unpleasant surprise.
There seems to exist a general misconception with more experienced and mature recovering addicts that the drugs used in their days were actually stronger than the drugs of today. The idea is that “they don’t make things like they used to,” and that manufacturing methods are “cheap.” While the latter might be true, cheap doesn’t equate to a lack of potency. Instead, drugs of today – most notably marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin are far more potent and far more dangerous.
This means that if you have 20 years of sobriety and you pick up a drug again you could easily die on the first puff, the first line, the first hit. For instance, two or three lines of 1980’s coke probably produced an intense high. However, the same amount of today’s cocaine could lead to an overdose, coma or even death. This is especially true of any drugs that are used in conjunction with hypodermic needles – the threat of death as a result of potency for intravenous users is extraordinarily high.
For most people who used heavily in their 20’s and 30’s and are now in their 40’s, 50’s or 60’s, there is also a physiological factor that must be considered. While the body of a 25 year old man may be able to handle the stresses of cocaine or heroin use temporarily, the body of a 50 year old man will fail much sooner. Combine this uncomfortable fact with the potency of today’s drugs and it’s easy to see how nothing but disaster awaits someone who falls off the wagon after a couple of decades or more.
People that relapse after being successful in recovery for that long often do so because they failed to continue to actively work on their recovery. Being humble, taking a personal inventory, going to meetings, engaging in spiritual practices – these are the things that many older people who relapse say they lost along the road to relapse. Most say they never really saw it coming and that a relapse at 50 or 55 was the last thing they ever expected. This is why so many drug rehab centers and addiction specialists try to educate clients that recovery is a lifetime process that must be worked at. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding.
If you’ve been in recovery for a long time and there’s even the remotest thought in your mind of using again, please call us. Even if it’s only to chat with one of our addiction specialists; many of whom have 20-30 years of recovery under their belts. Don’t hesitate – get the help you need now.