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Relapse Prevention

 

Overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction is a long and complex process. From the early stages of detox through to the later stages of aftercare, each piece of the treatment puzzle needs to be in place to ensure success. Detox helps people to stop drug use, rehab addresses the issues surrounding addiction, and aftercare promotes long-term recovery. Relapse is a common outcome of drug addiction, with dedicated measures needed to avoid re-exposure to drugs and alcohol. Relapse prevention techniques are applied throughout the treatment process, with therapists giving clients the practical support and psychological skills needed to change unhealthy and compulsive lifestyle patterns. If you know someone in Hawaii who could benefit from relapse prevention support, it is important to contact a specialized treatment center as soon as possible.

What is relapse?

Also known as recidivism, relapse describes a return to problematic drug or alcohol use following a period of abstinence. Because drug addiction is a learned behavior that is maintained by brain changes, dedicated measures are needed to create new physical and psychological associations. Relapse is both an outcome and a transgression of the recovery process, with most prevention systems approaching relapse in a series of stages. Emotional relapse is the first stage, recognized by unhealthy and out-of-place emotions. Mental relapse is the next stage, and is recognized by drug cravings and fantasies. Physical relapse is the final stage, with people who relapse physically having returned to drugs or alcohol. In order to break the bonds of addiction, recovering addicts need to implement dedicated strategies to recognize and avoid potential triggers. By learning how to deal with their thoughts and feelings effectively, people can learn to overcome their problems without resorting to unhealthy and compulsive behavior.

What is relapse prevention?

Relapse prevention is an approach to drug treatment that involves cognitive, behavioral, and motivational techniques. The end-goal of relapse prevention systems is to identify and prevent high-risk situations, including drug taking and other unhealthy behaviors. By working with recovering addicts during rehab and aftercare, clinicians attempt to create lifelong behavioral changes that stand the tests of time. Relapse is determined by many factors, including low outcome expectancies, drug cravings, lack of motivation, poor coping strategies, and interpersonal problems. Mindfulness plays an important role in relapse prevention systems, as patients will need to become aware of problematic thoughts and feelings as they arise. Therapists need to approach each case on its own merits, before instigating an appropriate prevention strategy.

Common Triggers

Recognizing potential triggers is an important part of the relapse prevention process. People can be triggered by many things, including emotional stressors, location proximity, and stress-induced cravings. Being able to identify these triggers as they arise is crucial, with dedicated techniques needing to be implemented before triggers influence behavior. The factors leading to relapse can be classified as either immediate determinants or covert antecedents. Immediate determinants are the emotional and environmental situations that will likely lead to relapse, with covert antecedents being the less obvious lifestyle factors, such as urges and cravings. Trigger recognition strategies are an important aspect of relapse prevention systems, and addicts will need to cope with the challenges presented or learn to avoid them effectively.

Practical Support

Most relapse prevention systems are based on cognitive, behavioral, or motivational strategies that attempt to recognize and alter problematic behavioral patterns. Practical support programs also have an important role to play, however, people are much less likely to relapse when they have access to stable accommodation, employment, and education. Sober living houses, 12-step support groups, and SMART Recovery systems help people reintegrate with everyday life following addiction treatment. Family support systems are also crucial, with long-term family therapy applied in some situations. If you or someone you know could benefit from relapse prevention support, contact an addiction specialist for more information.