The Steps for Relapse Prevention

When an individual has made a decision to stop drinking or stops using drugs, it takes work to get to the point where a declaration of “being clean” can be made. It means that the individual has worked through the process of identifying issues that led to substance abuse and learning coping strategies to avoid using harmful substances in the future. However, once a person has become clean and sober, he or she must recognize the events that can precipitate or trigger a relapse. There are different programs to help aid a former addict in relapse prevention.

Research shows that people often use drugs or alcohol to help them feel better, so it is easy to understand why a person who has spent so much time and effort getting clean might return to the habit of using when the going gets tough. Research by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and similar organizations suggests that 50-90 percent of persons who recover will relapse at some point. The following are some ways that a person who has been successful in recovery to avoid relapse.

Understanding Relapse Prevention

Relapse Prevention TechniquesIn order to understand relapse prevention, patients learn about the stages of relapse and prevention measures. Mental relapse starts weeks or even months before the event of physical relapse. In this group, patients will learn how to use specific relapse prevention techniques for both mental and physical stages of relapse.

Relapse prevention helps the patient recognize emotional relapse and how to change thoughts and behavior. Our program will help with the following:

  • Roadblocks to Recovery
  • Triggers, Urges, and Cravings
  • Negative Beliefs
  • Goal-Setting
  • Planning Daily Recovery Routines
  • Self-Acceptance

Common Triggers


Managing stress is one aspect of successful relapse prevention. Stress is one of the factors associated with relapse. Stressful situations such as financial issues, marital problems or the loss of a job can lead to relapse. A recovering person must first recognize that these issues are common to most people and in some instances cannot be avoided. Therefore, there must be some forethought given to how to manage these life events. Being aware of community resources that can help when money is short due to unexpected financial needs or job loss is helpful.

Additionally, it is important to identify support systems or persons who can intervene in a positive way when there are disagreements that can lead to marital strife or other relationship problems. Having a game plan for dealing with such issues is a way to avoid the stress that can result in a return to drugs or alcohol.

People and Places

In most cases, a person in recovery is not able to leave behind every aspect of his or her old life. For example, if the individual has no job or other financial resources, he or she might need to return to the old neighborhood to live with family. The problem with returning to the same environment or “playground” is that the same temptations to use or “playmates” may still be there. If there are friends in the neighborhood who were drinking buddies, a recovering person might think that he or she can maintain those friendships without falling back into a pattern of drinking. However, many people relapse because they cannot resist the peer pressure to drink or use drugs. As hard as it may be to give up old friends, associating with people who do not engage in addictive behavior can help one avoid this pressure.

Be Aware of Hidden Triggers

Several hidden triggers can lead to relapse. These are incidents that are not directly associated with stress or peer pressure, such unknowingly taking medications that might contain enough alcohol to initiate a craving for a drink. Likewise, being in the presence of certain drugs can tempt a recovering person to use. For example, if the individual happens to live in a home where a family member has been prescribed prescription painkillers, and the drugs are readily available in a medicine cabinet, it would be easy to abuse these drugs. The cravings might be similar to the person who has stopped smoking but enters an environment where everyone is smoking and cigarettes are plentiful.

Seek Treatment or Reach Out

Becoming strong enough to avoid the triggers that result in relapse requires the kind of treatment that teaches individuals how to deal with the obstacles and temptations that stand in the way of recovery. For this reason, inpatient treatment is beneficial. This type of therapy takes time, commitment and the support of friends and family.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse for those recovering from drug addiction is similar to that of persons dealing with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. The work just begins once the individual stops using. Strong programs that help people develop skills to cope with temptations and triggers every day is considered a gold standard for relapse prevention.

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