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Relapse Prevention

The prevention of relapse is one of the critical elements of effective treatment for alcohol and other drug abuse. Recovering from drug or alcohol abuse involves finding new ways of taking care of yourself, and new ways of acting with friends, family, and at work. It also involves the prevention of relapse - falling back into your habits of using alcohol or drugs to deal with problems and stress. There have been studies done showing that as many as 54% of those recovering from addiction experience a relapse at one point or another. Although relapse is a problem of addiction, it is preventable.

Individuals recovering from drug addiction need to learn to identify the warning signs that may lead to a relapse. The quicker they learn to spot the signs and signals the sooner they can take positive action for their own well-being. In drug addiction, relapse is the first instance of taking a drug after being deliberately clean and sober for a time. It is helpful to view relapse as a process that begins well in advance of that act. People who have relapsed can usually point back to certain things that they thought and did long before they actually drank or used drugs that eventually caused the relapse. They may have become complacent in their program of recovery in some way or refused to ask for help when they needed it. Each persons relapse factors are unique to them.

Relapse does take place without outside influences. There are many factors which contribute to it, as well as identifiable evidence and warning signs which indicate that the individual may be in danger of using drugs or alcohol again.

Relapse is usually caused by a combination of factors. Possible factors and warning signs in the prevention of a relapse might be:

  • Stopping medications on one's own or against the advice of medical professionals
  • Hanging around old drinking haunts and drug using friends - slippery places
  • Isolating - not attending meetings - not using the telephone for support
  • Keeping alcohol, drugs, and paraphernalia around the house for any reason
  • Obsessive thinking about using drugs or drinking
  • Failing to follow ones treatment plan - quitting therapy - skipping doctors' appointments
  • Feeling overconfident - that you no longer need support
  • Relationship difficulties - ongoing serious conflicts - a spouse who still uses
  • Setting unrealistic goals - perfectionism - being too hard on ourselves
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns, personal hygiene, or energy levels
  • Feeling overwhelmed - confused - useless - stressed out
  • Constant boredom - irritability - lack of routine and structure in life
  • Sudden changes in psychiatric symptoms
  • Dwelling on resentments and past hurts - anger - unresolved conflicts
  • Avoidance - refusing to deal with personal issues and other problems of daily living
  • Major life changes - loss - grief - trauma - painful emotions - winning the lottery
  • Ignoring relapse warning signs and triggers

A key factor in relapse prevention is social adjustment. When individuals complete their recovery programs often times they are not equipped with the tools necessary to reenter society. The lack of tools and training many times is the root of the problem. Without them, the recovering addict finds that in difficult situations they are unable to cope with their urges and turn to using once again. Relapse prevention methods are critical to the success of substance abuse treatment.

Almost everyone recovering from drug addiction has times when compelling thoughts of drinking or using drugs resurface. In early recovery, drinking or drugging dreams are not uncommon. It helps to remind ourselves that the reality of drinking and using has caused many problems in our lives. That no matter how bad things get, the benefits of staying clean will far outweigh any short term relief that might be found in drugs or alcohol. Recovery takes time. Eventually the cravings, relapse dreams, and uncertainties of early recovery fade. When we are committed to recovery we slowly but surely develop a stronger confidence in our new way of life without drugs and alcohol.

A new study published in Behavior Therapy apparently confirms that offering "understanding and encouragement" to those with drinking and drug use problems is the best approach family members can take in dealing with the situation.

The study, conducted by William Fals-Stewart of the State University of New York at Buffalo, found that men recovering from substance abuse are less successful if they believe their spouse or partner is critical of them, rather than supportive.

The study found that of 106 married men studied, those who reported greater criticism from their partners were more likely to have relapsed, regardless of the severity of their drug problem, age or race.

Other findings of the study include:

  • Of the 106 men in the study, half had relapsed after a year of treatment.
  • Most of the men perceived their partner to be moderately critical of them, with only 2 percent saying they were not critical at all, and 29 percent saying they were "very critical."
  • Older men were more likely to perceive criticism, as were those involved in more distressed relationships.
  • The study noted the men's perceived criticism, rather than how much and how often their partners actually criticized them.
  • Fals-Stewart said relapses themselves may increase criticism from a spouse, who may be especially disappointed by the failure of treatment.

Consider the following information to help you in the prevention of a relapse:

  • Approximately 2/3 of all relapses for any addiction occur within the first 90 days.
  • During the first 90 days after withdrawing from alcohol or drugs may experience some periods of poor memory or concentration, or they may overreact to stress. This may lead to relapse.
  • The longer a person is abstinent, the better these things will get, but handling stress as it comes up is an important way to prevent relapse. Not coping with stress is a major reason for relapse.

Although an individual may relapse, it does not mean they will never overcome their addiction. Studies have been done which show that approximately one-third of those who enter recovery will achieve permanent success their first time. Though this number is small, it does not mean the other two-thirds will not make a successful recovery. Another third have brief relapse episodes which eventually result in long-term abstinence. An additional one-third experience chronic relapses which result in eventual recovery from their addiction. In this website we will explore the process of relapse, in addition to information regarding its "warning signs," or triggers, and the elements of relapse prevention treatment methods.

Topics relating to Relapse Prevention

  • Relapse Prevention
  • Alcohol Prevention
  • Alcohol Relapse
  • Drug Relapse
  • History of Drug Abuse
  • History of Alcohol Abuse
  • Relapse Prevention
  • Relapse Triggers
  • Substance Abuse Prevention