As with any chronic condition, such as asthma, diabetes, or hypertension, it must be managed over time. Relapse rates in substance abuse disorders range from 40 to 60 percent. This is similar to other chronic medical conditions.
Relapses are not uncommon, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be striving to prevent them. Relapses in alcohol or drugs not only ruin a lot of hard work, but they can also prove fatal. Relapsing could lead to a binge, that then leads to an overdose. These are 5 effective steps you or a loved one can take to avoid relapse:
1. Participate in long-term drug addiction treatment
Recovery from substance abuse disorder is not an easy process. One medication or one month of therapy is not enough to guarantee you won’t start using again. You need to be involved in intensive treatment at a high-quality drug rehab for a sufficient period of time and receive continued support. This will ensure a better long-term outcome.
Research supports the notion that participation and engagement in treatment can reduce the chance of relapse. A study that included over 1000 substance abuse disorder patients showed that people who participated in treatment for nine weeks had a greater chance of achieving sustained recovery. Patients who received aftercare and participated in support groups saw a decrease in relapse rates.
2. Learn how to identify and manage triggers.
Recognizing your triggers is crucial. These triggers are things that cause you to think about, crave and eventually use drugs or alcohol. These triggers can be quite general, like being around someone who is using. This is typically the main factor that causes most people in recovery to relapse. Triggers can also be specific and include certain people or locations. They can also include emotions, especially if you have used a substance to cope with unpleasant feelings or moods.
Therapy sessions can help identify triggers. You can have these sessions to teach you how to deal with them so you don’t resort to drugs or alcohol when you are confronted with someone or something that triggers a craving.
3. Create a new, healthier lifestyle.
The modern “model of relapse prevention” was developed in the 1980s and since there has been ample research supporting its core ideas, such as managing triggers to avoid relapse. The model also includes global strategies that represent long-term changes that can make a difference in your life and help you live healthier.
Although this is a long-term effort, if you make big lifestyle changes you can reduce your chances of relapse. Positive changes include learning healthy coping strategies to deal with stress and other negative emotions, along with managing mental illness by taking advantage of things like yoga and meditation.
4. If necessary, use medication.
Research in addiction has led to the development of medications that can be used to help patients with cravings manage their symptoms and prevent relapse. This is especially important for people with opioid addiction. When used under supervision, medications like buprenorphine and methadone can help reduce cravings and the urge to relapse. Because it blocks opioid effects, Naltrexone can make it impossible to take an opioid. Some people believe that medications are important in preventing relapse and helping them recover.
5. Depend on others for care and peer support
It is important to realize that it is not possible to recover from addiction by yourself. You need to surround yourself with people who are supportive, who don’t use drugs or alcohol, and who genuinely care about you and your well being. You can take advantage of the aftercare programs and support groups available to people in recovery also as these are proven to help with sustainable recovery. Social support is also an important factor in helping people to resist relapse and help them recover faster if they do.
Realize that you may relapse if you are currently in treatment for a substance abuse disorder. However, you can take steps to prevent this from happening. These steps aren’t all that are necessary though and your therapist should help you in creating a relapse prevention plan. This plan will outline what you should do in the event of a relapse to minimize any negative consequences.
If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction or substance abuse, please contact us today. We are here to help you along the way, and throughout your road to recovery.