What To Do When Addiction Relapses

July 10, 2024

Get empowered on what to do when addiction relapses. Learn triggers, coping strategies, and helpful resources.

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Understanding Addiction Relapse

A crucial part of the recovery journey is understanding what a relapse is and how to identify its warning signs. A relapse refers to the process of returning to substance use after a period of recovery and sobriety. It's important to remember that a relapse doesn't signify failure but is a common part of the recovery process. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), many individuals in recovery from addiction experience at least one relapse [1].

Stages of Relapse

Relapse is often a process, not an event, and generally occurs in three stages: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse.

Emotional relapse involves negative emotional responses, erratic eating and sleeping habits, and a waning desire for recovery. At this stage, while there's no conscious intention of returning to substance use, the individual's behaviors and emotions set the stage for potential relapse.

Mental relapse is marked by an internal struggle between the desire to maintain sobriety and the urge to return to drug use. Thoughts about using become more frequent, eventually leading to direct considerations about using.

Physical relapse occurs when a person consumes the substance, breaking their sobriety. This phase can be especially dangerous for someone who has abstained from drug use for a long time, as taking the amount they were accustomed to during their abuse could result in overdose and even death.

Warning Signs of Relapse

Recognizing the warning signs prior to a relapse is crucial in preventing one. Common warning signs include romanticizing drug use, thinking about using without falling back into addiction, revisiting old relationships involving drug use, sudden behavior changes, and doubting the effectiveness of the recovery process.

Detecting early signs of relapse, such as behavioral changes or exposure to triggers, is crucial for individuals in recovery. Relapse typically evolves over a period of weeks rather than happening suddenly. By learning the early signs of a relapse, individuals in recovery can recognize the dangers and take proactive steps to prevent it.

Recovery is a continuum with peaks and valleys. When facing a challenging period, it is important to take proactive steps to get back on track as early as possible to prevent relapse.

Being aware of these stages and signs is the first step in answering the question 'what to do when addiction relapses?'. Subsequent sections will cover coping strategies, prevention techniques, and resources to aid individuals on their journey to recovery.

Triggers and Risk Factors

Understanding the triggers and risk factors that can lead to addiction relapse is a crucial step in recovery. These triggers could be emotional, environmental, or psychological in nature and recognizing them can help individuals prepare and react appropriately.

Emotional Triggers

Emotional triggers such as depression, stress, exhaustion, and isolation can lead to relapse. Depression and substance abuse are often linked, with depression increasing the risk of suicide and stress potentially causing a relapse. Exhaustion from lack of sleep can make a person more vulnerable to using again, emphasizing the importance of healthy living. Isolation from support systems can also be a trigger for relapse [1].

In addition, common emotional triggers of relapse include hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness. By identifying and addressing these triggers, one can reduce the risk of relapse in addiction recovery.

Environmental Triggers

Environmental triggers relate to the physical surroundings or situations that may increase the risk of relapse. These can include places, people, or things that remind an individual of their substance use. For example, visiting a location where one used to use drugs or alcohol can trigger cravings. Similarly, spending time with people who still use substances can make it more difficult to maintain sobriety.

It's important for those in recovery to recognize these environmental triggers and take appropriate steps to avoid them whenever possible. This could mean changing routines, finding new social activities, or even moving to a new location in some cases.

Psychological Triggers

Psychological triggers can include thoughts, memories, or mental health conditions that increase the risk of relapse. For instance, individuals who used drugs to cope with stress in the past are more likely to return to drug use in stressful situations.

It's also common for individuals in recovery to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms, which can include anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. These symptoms can be difficult to manage, and without proper support, they can lead to relapse.

Understanding and addressing these triggers is a key component of relapse prevention. By recognizing their triggers and having a plan in place to cope with them, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of relapse and continue to make progress in their recovery journey.

Coping Strategies for Relapse

In the journey to overcome addiction, relapse is often a common hurdle. However, it's crucial to remember that relapse does not equate to failure. With the right strategies and resources, one can effectively cope with relapse and continue on the path to recovery.

Addressing Mental Urges

The first step in coping with relapse is to address the mental urges that often accompany it. One of the key tools in managing these urges is mindfulness meditation. Studies show that individuals who practice mindfulness meditation experience longer periods of sobriety, reduced cravings, increased awareness, and improved acceptance. This practice encourages individuals to cope with cravings rather than fight them, promoting better self-control.

Developing a Relapse Prevention Plan

Developing a relapse prevention plan is an essential strategy for managing addiction relapse. This plan should include recognizing personal triggers for relapse, both internal and external. Internal triggers include emotions such as anxiety, irritability, stress, anger, and low self-esteem, while external triggers can be people, places, or things associated with past substance use [3].

With the help of a professional therapist, individuals can strategize effective ways to handle these triggers and avoid situations that may lead to relapse. A comprehensive relapse prevention plan can be instrumental in ensuring another relapse does not occur [1].

Seeking Professional Help

When faced with a relapse, seeking professional help is often the most effective course of action. Professionals can provide the necessary support, resources, and therapies to help individuals regain their footing and continue on their recovery journey.

Joining a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provides essential support, accountability, education, and understanding from peers who can relate to the recovery journey. Having a sponsor and peer support can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, common triggers for relapse in addiction recovery.

In conclusion, effectively managing addiction relapse requires a combination of self-awareness, strategic planning, and professional support. By addressing mental urges, developing a relapse prevention plan, and seeking professional help, individuals can overcome the hurdle of relapse and continue on their path to recovery.

Relapse Prevention Skills

Relapse prevention skills are vital for individuals on their journey to addiction recovery. These tools equip individuals with the knowledge and strategies needed to anticipate potential triggers and effectively handle the challenges that come along the way.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a valuable tool for individuals in addiction recovery. Studies show that individuals who practice mindfulness meditation experience longer periods of sobriety, reduced cravings, increased awareness, and improved acceptance. This practice encourages individuals to cope with cravings rather than fight them, promoting better self-control. (Addiction Center)

In mindfulness meditation, individuals learn to focus on their breath, acknowledging and accepting their thoughts and feelings without judgement. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety, common triggers for relapse. Regular practice of mindfulness meditation can increase one's ability to manage cravings and maintain sobriety.

Identifying and Addressing Triggers

Recognizing both internal and external triggers is a crucial step in preventing addiction relapse. Internal triggers can include emotions such as anxiety, irritability, stress, anger, and low self-esteem. External triggers, on the other hand, can be people, places, or things associated with past substance use. (Addiction Center)

Creating a list of these triggers can help individuals gain awareness and develop effective coping strategies. This can involve finding healthy ways to manage stress, avoiding high-risk situations, or seeking support when experiencing difficult emotions. By doing so, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of relapse and stay on track with their recovery journey.

Support Groups and Peer Mentoring

Joining a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provides essential support, accountability, education, and understanding from peers who can relate to the recovery journey. Having a sponsor and peer support can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, common triggers for relapse in addiction recovery [3].

Psychoeducational groups are designed to educate clients about substance abuse and related behaviors and consequences, expanding awareness about the behavioral, medical, and psychological consequences of substance abuse [4].

Furthermore, support group members help each other with pragmatic concerns, such as maintaining abstinence and managing day-to-day living. They bolster members' efforts to develop and strengthen the ability to manage their thinking and emotions and to develop better interpersonal skills as they recover from substance abuse.

In summary, building relapse prevention skills is an essential part of the recovery process. By practicing mindfulness meditation, identifying and addressing triggers, and engaging in support groups and peer mentoring, individuals can effectively manage challenges and maintain their recovery journey.

Recovery Resources

In the journey of addiction recovery, various resources can provide much-needed support. These include national helplines, professional treatment centers, and support for families. Let's delve into the specifics of each of these resources.

National Helplines

National helplines are crucial recovery resources available to individuals struggling with addiction. They provide immediate assistance, information, and referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

In 2020, SAMHSA's National Helpline received 833,598 calls, marking a 27 percent increase from 2019 when the Helpline received 656,953 calls [5].

In Canada, there are also nationwide services available for anyone, anywhere, at any time for issues with substance use, including overdose prevention and tobacco cessation [6].

Country Helpline
United States SAMHSA's National Helpline
Canada Canada-wide Substance Use Services

Professional Treatment Centers

Professional treatment centers are a vital resource for individuals dealing with addiction relapses. They offer a range of services, including individual counseling, group therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and tailored treatment plans.

An example of such a center is the San Antonio Recovery Center. They provide individualized treatment plans, including evidence-based therapies like relapse prevention therapy (RPT), to help individuals achieve long-term recovery success by addressing substance misuse and addiction comprehensively.

In Canada, harm reduction centers provide support, locations, and services for individuals struggling with addiction. They can be reached at 1-902-470-8888 or 1-888-470-5888.

Support for Families

Families also need resources to cope when a loved one is dealing with addiction. They can access Parent-to-Parent Support, Online Parent Support Groups, and other resources to help support their loved ones.

These resources can provide families with the knowledge and skills needed to support their loved one in the recovery process. They can also offer emotional support and coping strategies for family members themselves.

In conclusion, recovery resources are an essential part of the journey towards overcoming addiction. They provide the necessary support, guidance, and professional intervention needed to navigate the path to recovery.

Relapse Prevention Therapy

Relapse prevention therapy (RPT) is an integral part of recovery from addiction. This evidence-based approach is designed to help individuals understand and manage triggers and develop effective coping strategies to avoid future relapses. Here, we delve into the components of RPT including building coping strategies, individualized treatment plans, and a comprehensive recovery approach.

Building Coping Strategies

RPT emphasizes the importance of coping strategies in preventing relapse. Such strategies are designed to address mental urges and emotional triggers that may lead to a relapse. Two common types of groups used in RPT to build these strategies include psychoeducational groups and skills development groups [4].

Psychoeducational groups aim to expand clients' awareness about the behavioral, medical, and psychological consequences of substance abuse. By understanding these consequences, individuals are better equipped to resist the temptation of returning to substance use.

Skills development groups, on the other hand, focus on cultivating the skills needed to achieve and maintain abstinence. These skills can be directly related to substance use or apply to broader areas relevant to an individual's continued sobriety.

Individualized Treatment Plans

An important aspect of RPT is the creation of individualized treatment plans. These plans take into account the unique experiences, triggers, and needs of each individual. They include evidence-based therapies like RPT, which helps individuals avoid falling back into substance misuse [7].

A well-crafted treatment plan can help individuals navigate the recovery journey with clarity and confidence. It provides a roadmap for recovery, outlining the steps and strategies that individuals can use to stay sober and avoid relapse.

Comprehensive Recovery Approach

A comprehensive approach to recovery aims to address substance misuse and addiction in all its complexity. This includes not only the physical aspects of addiction but also the emotional, psychological, and social aspects.

Such an approach often includes RPT and other evidence-based therapies, support groups, and resources for families. By addressing substance misuse and addiction comprehensively, individuals are more likely to achieve long-term recovery success.

In conclusion, Relapse Prevention Therapy is a vital tool in the arsenal of addiction recovery. By building coping strategies, creating individualized treatment plans, and adopting a comprehensive recovery approach, individuals can confidently navigate their recovery journey and reduce the risk of relapse.

References

[1]: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/adult-addiction-treatment-programs/signs-of-relapse

[2]: https://www.ashleytreatment.org/rehab-blog/early-relapse-warning-signs/

[3]: https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/top-10-relapse-prevention-skills/

[4]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64214/

[5]: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

[6]: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/get-help-with-substance-use.html

[7]: https://www.sanantoniorecoverycenter.com/rehab-blog/coping-skills-for-relapse-prevention/

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