Relapse prevention is a term for any form of therapy, support, or treatment that a person receives after they complete a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program. A good relapse prevention plan will help addicts stay in control long before a specific opportunity for using drugs or alcohol even occurs.
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For people who have completed addiction treatment for drugs or alcohol, the odds against their continued recovery are high. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that up to 60 percent of recovering individuals will experience a relapse as some point after rehab. While that percentage represents an overall average, certain substances of abuse have even higher sobriety failure rates.
Studies show that up to 80 percent of recovering alcoholics will use drugs or alcohol during their first year of sobriety. These statistics paint a bleak picture of the future for recovering addicts, but long-term success is possible with appropriate drug treatment and aftercare resources. Recovering people can also improve their chances of success by addressing any underlying mental health disorders or emotional issues that might promote addictive behavior.
Research from NIDA also indicates that men are more likely to experience a relapse than women after completing a rehab program. The main reason for this difference seems to be that women are more likely to reach out for help in the form of support groups and counseling. It's not easy to remain drug-free after treatment, and it's normal to feel a bit isolated. Attending 12-step meetings and support groups can help participants prevent recurrent drug and alcohol use and build new relationships.
A relapse is a gradual return to drug or alcohol use that occurs in stages. During the earlier stages of a relapse, the individual isn't actually using drugs or alcohol, but they may be thinking about using or battling the emotions that could lead to eventual use.
It's important to recognize these signs of an impending relapse and take action before the situation gets worse. Simple actions like attending 12-step meetings or sharing their struggle with a sponsor can help addicts get back on track before they reach the point of actual substance use.
Many recovering individuals agree that avoidance is the best strategy for preventing an addict from using drugs or alcohol again. Not all situations and stresses in life can be avoided, but choosing to steer clear of bars or distancing themselves from certain people can help addicts reduce the chance of being faced with temptation.
If there is no way to avoid a particular location or event, it can be helpful to ask a sponsor or close friend to go with the addict for added moral support.
Developing a set of positive coping techniques and accounting for emotional triggers will help recovering people stay strong and resist the urge to drink or use again. Avoiding temptation is an important aspect of relapse prevention, but it's just one part of an overall strategy: A comprehensive plan should also consider the social situations, stresses and emotional factors that can lead to an addict using drugs or alcohol after treatment.
Treatment centers offer many therapies and services that focus on relapse prevention. Group therapy and individual counseling sessions enable participants to develop a set of coping techniques that will help them long after they leave the rehab center. Therapy can also teach participants how to change their lifestyle and abandon destructive habits.
Addiction recovery treatment specialists remind patients that a small slip doesn't have to turn into a full-blown relapse. With the right support and strategies, addicts can keep a one-time lapse from derailing their recovery efforts.