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Relapse Prevention

Completing a comprehensive treatment programme can be highly beneficial for those struggling with substance abuse and mental health conditions. However, unfortunately, long-term recovery isn’t the case for all individuals, sometimes resulting in relapse. Enquire Now
Further Information
Relapse Prevention
Updated on 30/09/2021
Medically reviewed by
Dr Alexander Lapa (Psychiatrist)

Without consistent control and the implementation of life-changing skills, predominantly developed through rehab, recovery challenges can arise, influencing relapse.

Although many individuals can avoid this discouraging and difficult phase of recovery, for some, the risk of relapse is high, down to a number of factors; including cravings, stress, incomplete treatment programmes, surrounding environments and strong underlying causations.

With this in mind, no matter the chances of facing these challenges, developing a relapse prevention plan is vital for all when rehabilitating. Through prevention techniques, a positive attitude and the desire to remain sober, relapse prevention is probable.

If you’re currently suffering from an addiction, or you’re concerned that relapse probabilities may be high, here at Addiction Advocates, we can guide you through the next best steps.

Reach out today to see the benefits of addiction treatment, combined with personal relapse prevention techniques.

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Are you suffering from Drug or Alcohol Addiction and need help? Addiction Advocates are leading UK based experts in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Rehabilitation Treatment. Find out how we can help by getting in touch with our friendly team today.

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What is relapse?

A relapse is where challenges disrupt the recovery process for individuals rehabilitating from drug or alcohol abuse. These challenges can be anything from vulnerabilities, old triggers, ongoing mental health issues, existing cravings or incomplete recovery efforts.

Although relapse is viewed as a negative phase, around half of individuals recovering from addiction do experience a degree of relapse.

It is important to remember that addiction recovery can take some time, usually down to the cognitive changes experienced in correlation with substance abuse. Likewise, a dual diagnosis can prolong recovery, exposing individuals to the risks of relapsing.

As relapses are quite common, it is firstly important that those who experience them understand that recovery can still be achieved.

A relapse can be a small disruption, soon followed by further addiction treatment and guidance. Yet, as relapse can jeopardise recovery efforts, relapse prevention techniques will be recommended through initial rehabilitation.

Key stages of relapseAddiction Support

In some small cases, relapses are uncontrollable. However, in the majority of situations, a relapse will build over time, providing the opportunity to spot and diminish those influences.

Relapse triggers will usually present themselves through key stages. These stages of relapse will present themselves in different forms, including emotional, psychological and physical signs.

By understanding the stages of relapse greater, there will be an opportunity to reduce the risk of physical relapse, by implementing relapse prevention techniques.

Emotional relapse

Although physical substance abuse is yet to take place, emotional relapse is where the effort to remain sober is reducing. This may include a lack of motivation to participate in support groups, avoiding personal coping mechanisms or breaking effective self-care routines.

An emotional relapse in most cases is unintentional. Yet, these negative emotions and routines can transition individuals back to old mindsets, opening the door slightly to substance abuse and mental health issues. Without gaining control over an emotional relapse, mental deterioration is likely.

Psychological relapse

A psychological relapse is a dangerous stage to experience as justifications for old habits, such as substance abuse are made. Here is where previous withdrawal symptoms, experiences with drugs or alcohol, and side effects will be downplayed in the mind.

Although efforts may be made to utilise coping mechanisms, those negative thoughts and feelings can result in relapse triggers, where consumption is a strong potential.

Physical relapse

Therapy for AddictionWithout gaining control over a psychological relapse, the physical risk of relapsing is high. Here is where a slip of consumption will take place, sometimes refuelling the addiction cycle.

For a proportion of individuals, a physical relapse will remind them of old negative associations, linked to substance abuse, offering new motivation to remain sober. However, for others, this can make life in recovery very difficult, restarting substance abuse and mental health issues.

Although relapse can take some time to show itself, where physical consumption occurs, it is important that a relapse prevention plan is communicated throughout initial recovery. This will help those suffering and family members spot the signs of relapse, along with positive steps to reverse those negative feelings.

Warning signs of relapse

Warning signs can differ for all individuals. However, there are common signs of relapse which are important to spot for yourself or for a loved one. Once these signs have been identified, efforts to reverse relapse triggers, including prevention techniques should be followed.

Common warning signs of relapse include:

  • Isolation from others.
  • A change in behaviour or opinion.
  • Aims to actively avoid positive coping mechanisms or treatment, such as alcoholics anonymous sessions.
  • Ignoring positive self-care routines.
  • Interacting with people who drink alcohol or abuse drugs.
  • Believing that one drink will be fine.

In some situations, physical recovery can be achieved through addiction treatment. Yet, underlying psychological triggers may fester, soon developing into relapse risks. With this in mind, keeping track of your relationship with drugs and alcohol is very important, helping to promote relapse prevention.

By avoiding relapse prevention techniques, and allowing for old habits to resurface, there’s a risk that recovery efforts can be disrupted, reverting to addictive behaviours.

This can be very disheartening, along with increasing the need for further addiction treatment. Avoid the risk of relapse and a future of addiction by welcoming and following a relapse prevention plan.

Creating a relapse prevention plan

Relapse prevention is probable by creating and following positive coping mechanisms. To ensure that these coping mechanisms are able to support you, the creation of a relapse prevention plan should be completed and communicated while at rehab.

This plan will include risky situations and factors which can influence relapse, along with techniques to bypass those relapse triggers. For example, poor mental health and eating can influence old behaviours, which can usually be controlled by following a strict self-care routine.

A relapse prevention plan should be personal and achievable. It should ensure that relapse prevention is realistic, once post-rehab vulnerabilities present themselves.

A plan should also include details to guide individuals if a relapse does occur, including a safe location to go to, a friend to call, stress-relieving strategies, locations of emergency services, crisis lines and reasons why sobriety is desired.

The above details should support an individual in the event of a relapse, along with reducing the potential of developing a physical relapse. If a relapse does occur, reaching out for immediate support is recommended, helping to reduce the degree of damage.

If you do experience a relapse, please do not feel embarrassed or disheartened. Recovering from an addiction can take some time, while commonly faced with challenges.

The best way you can respond to those challenges is by following a relapse prevention plan while remaining open and honest with those around you.

For guidance surrounding addiction recovery, we can help you here at Addiction Advocates.

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Seth is an author, addiction recovery expert and fully accredited member of the national counselling society. He has experience working with a wide range of addictions and mental illnesses using a number of evidence-based therapies and programmes such as the SMART models of addiction recovery.

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