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Why are Relapse Prevention Programs Important?

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Why are Relapse Prevention Programs Important?

Relapse Prevention Programs The Key To Fighting Addiction

A drug or alcohol addiction is not a condition that can be resolved in a short period of time. In fact, remaining sober is something that will require management over the long-term because the risk of relapse is so high (40 to 60% chance of relapse). Relapse prevention is a crucial part of the long-term recovery of a person suffering from substance use disorder.

Relapse prevention explained

Relapse is when a person who has been addicted to a substance starts using again after stopping. Relapse prevention is the techniques and knowledge used to prevent a relapse from taking place. It is important to note that relapse is not just a single event but rather a process that unfolds. This means that there is an opportunity to employ methods that have been learned during treatment programs to prevent the relapse from occurring.

The Process of Relapse

Relapse is said to happen in three stages; emotional, mental and physical. Each stage has signs that it is occurring and with the knowledge of what the stages look like, steps can be taken to stop it from happening. The following section explains how relapse happens:

  • Emotional – The very first stage of relapse is an emotional stage where the person becomes overwhelmed with emotions. The person will not yet be considering taking substances again but the emotions they are experiencing are drawing them closer to it. Signs include intolerance of others, anger, defensiveness, mood swings, isolating themselves from others, avoiding support group meetings and poor sleeping and eating habits.
  • Mental – After the emotional triggers comes the mental stage of relapse. Here the person will begin to think about relapsing. Romanticizing past drug use and lying to those around them is common in this stage. The person will often start seeing drug-abusing friends again and think about using once again. They may even plan to relapse.
  • Physical – This stage happens when substance abuse starts again. The person will be on their way to pick up their drugs or alcohol and use it. It does not mean that the treatment has failed as many people have a relapse and then stop permanently after going to support group meetings again.

Relapse triggers

There are many potential triggers for drug or alcohol abuse in a recovering addict. These are usually emotionally charged events that are difficult to deal with, triggering a craving to take a substance to cope. An event such as losing someone you care about or being fired can be a powerful trigger for relapse. Peer pressure is a strong motivator for drug abuse too as well as other tempting situations where the substance is freely available, such as at a party.

When these triggers occur, the recovering person is advised to use techniques learned in therapy such as meditation to calm themselves and attend support group meetings to share what it is that is happening to them.

Benefits of Relapse Prevention Support Groups 

Addiction is not something that can easily be dealt with alone and support groups can help a person to prevent relapse over the long-term. The social interaction alone that is available at support group meetings (such as the 12-step program) can help to reduce a person’s feelings of stress and anxiety. New friendships and bonds can be formed with people that hold the same values and together help each other to stay away from substance abuse.

Accountability for individual action goes up as self-esteem goes up through continued group meeting support. Gaining the support of others can help build personal motivation to remain sober. According to Project MATCH Research Group, “group therapy and addiction treatment are natural allies. One reason is that people who abuse substances often are more likely to remain abstinent and committed to recovery when treatment is provided in groups, apparently because of rewarding and therapeutic forces such as affiliation, confrontation, support, gratification, and identification.”

Advantages of Group Treatment for Relapse Prevention

  • Groups provide peer pressure in a positive way that holds members accountable for sobriety. Commitment to a group such as living in an Oxford house or sober living home means committing to remaining sober not only for your self but for the others who also are fighting an addiction.
  • Groups reduce fear of missing out and isolation that many feel when they first gain sobriety. participating in a group treatment of any kind produces feelings of belonging and purpose and therefor members know they always have some where to go if they are feeling down, having cravings, or feel anxious.
  • Group therapy provides experience and allows others to witness recovery from a different perspective. Witnessing others who share the struggles of addiction recovery maintain abstinence can be inspiring and provide hope that if those around you can do it so can you.
  • Group Treatment teaches and provides coping mechanisms that can only be learned through experience. In group treatment many often share the challenges they have faced, tactics for overcoming cravings and provide insight to how they avoided triggers for relapse or what triggers they encountered.
  • Living with or participating in treatment with other individuals also battling addiction can help one person with coming to terms and confronting their own addiction. Since denial is a large obstacle in addiction recovery, being immersed in a setting where one can feel comfortable admitting to their substance abuse and flaws can improve recovery outcomes. Additionally, these relapse prevention programs help individuals to overcome fears of judgement.

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