Addiction is a chronic condition that affects brain functions and can be extremely to both an addict’s mental and physical health. Since drug and alcohol dependence alters a user’s brain chemistry, it is often incredibly difficult for the addict to quit on their own. In addition to this, the chance of returning to addictive behaviors is likely, especially without the tools and support provided through a relapse prevention program. Our treatment center offers relapse prevention programs that improve an addict’s chances of maintaining long-term sobriety. Relapse prevention helps addict’s find the root of their addiction and therefore, recognize what specifically triggers their substance abuse. Whether in an inpatient or outpatient facility, or years out of rehab, temptation will always be present for addicts. Relapse prevention is key to the recovery process and minimizing the risk of experiencing a setback.
What is Relapse?
It is a series of stages that end in a return to taking drugs or alcohol. Relapse prevention aims to prevent the process that leads an addict to return to drug and alcohol abuse. Relapse prevention measures acknowledge the likelihood of a relapse and include a mix of therapies to help the individual understand and cope with the steps leading to relapse.
The Stages of Relapse
This process occurs in a number of stages. These signs occur in sequence, and the accumulated weight of them progressively adds more problems for which a return to drinking or using drugs is seen as the only solution.
Emotional- the person begins to develop unhealthy emotions. They may feel unable to cope or manage when a problem occurs during their recovery period or when they suffer withdrawal symptoms. Their attitude to recovery may change and they begin to see it is as either not working, or not worth the effort. They may know something is wrong but have developed unhealthy ways of processing emotions during their addictive period and cannot identify and deal with them in a healthy way.
Mental- the patient may go into a period of denial and interior chaos, and return to addictive ways of thinking. The person may begin to feel they have lost control, especially if they encounter a major problem in their life, and may gradually turn away from their recovery support systems.
Physical- this may begin with compulsive behaviors in response to triggers that previously caused them to turn to drugs or alcohol. Compulsive behaviors can include over-working, over-eating, excessive exercise, or overly strict dieting. The individual may become overbearing or seek out addictive relationships or use sex as a coping mechanism.
The person gradually loses control, abandons recovery programs, resumes old habits, and experiences increasingly powerful urges to give in to the temptations. Eventually it becomes so difficult that the only possible outcome is a relapse, which occurs when a final trigger causes them to lose control and give in. It is important to realize, however, that the relapse begins at the first step and not the last.
Up to 60 percent of drug and alcohol abusers experience a setback after a period of recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this is similar to rates for other chronic diseases such as diabetes. The rates decrease dramatically in people who follow a good relapse prevention plan.
All treatment for addiction should include a mix of therapies to help the addict understand the processes leading to relapse. Treatment programs such as group and individual counseling and behavioral therapy can help teach patients to learn how to cope with cravings. In some cases a life-long commitment to a recovery program is the only way to prevent this process from occurring.
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