When people suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction, they are suffering from a disease. This disease is one that can be successfully treated, but it often does not fully go away. As a result, a person who is in recovery could begin to slip back into habits and thought patterns that are detrimental to staying sober or clean. As a result of this return to old behaviors, they may start drinking or using drugs again. When this happens, it is known as a relapse. Relapses are not uncommon occurrences and are often expected. However, steps can be taken for alcohol and drug addiction relapse prevention.
Relapse prevention is a method of treatment in which a recovering addict is taught how to identify the warning signs associated with relapse, and upon recognizing them, they are taught how to manage these symptoms. This type of treatment often involves the use of cognitive behavioral therapy. Relapse prevention follows a set of procedures. These procedures include stabilization, self-assessment, relapse education, warning sign identification, warning sign management, recovery planning, inventory training, involvement of others, and relapse prevention plan updating.
When creating a recovery plan, set goals to be achieved. These goals can help to replace old, destructive thoughts and actions. Plans should identify situations that are high-risk. By recognizing and identifying things that might trigger a relapse, people can come up with tailored ways to handle these situations. Ideally, people should include three ways to handle these scenarios, and they should be acted out in preparation for when they are needed. Also, as part of an early relapse prevention plan, keep names and phone numbers of people who are supportive and understanding on hand. This may be a hotline or the number of someone from a therapy group or who has dealt with relapse themselves.
There are several types of relapse that a person can experience. A slip, which is also called a lapse, occurs when a person uses drugs or alcohol for a brief period of time but does not display signs of dependency and returns swiftly to recovery. In the second type of relapse, a person uses drugs or alcohol over a period of several days. The individual shows some signs of addiction but does not abandon treatment. At this point, treatment may become more intense, and therapy involves a review of what may have triggered the relapse and how it can be avoided in the future. The third type or level of relapse is one in which the individual goes into a full relapse and drops out of treatment for either a short or long period.
Early warning signs of a relapse commonly include believing that the problem no longer exists, avoidance of responsibility, changes in one’s usual routine, obsessive behavior, anxiousness, excessive displays of anger, marked changes in routine such as sleeping or hygiene, and socializing with people who are known users of drugs or alcohol. But relapses don’t just happen suddenly: Typically, they occur in various stages or steps. The stages may differ somewhat from one individual to another. A common set of stages for people headed toward relapse begins with a trigger. A trigger may be an event, person, place, or situation that can be good or bad. In the second stage, the trigger trips a response or feeling that one holds about themselves. This response leads to the next stage, craving the drug or alcohol. In the fourth stage, the individual gives themselves permission to indulge in the substance. This permission is often an excuse or justification as to why it is OK to indulge. This is followed by action, which is usually buying the drink, calling the drug dealer, or meeting up with people who will have access to these things. It is at the final stage that the actual relapse occurs and the individual gets drunk or high.
People who have sought addiction treatment but are not yet ready to immerse themselves in their regular environment may stay for a time at a sober living house or a halfway house. Sober living homes are homes where residents can continue their personal recovery plans and interact with peers. While in this type of environment, people must be able to pay their rent, purchase food, and work and/or attend school. Attending a weekly outside 12-step program meeting is also typically required. Rules of conduct must be obeyed as well, or the resident risks eviction. Halfway houses are similar to sober living environments in that they are meant to help addicts to reintegrate into society. They differ in that they provide rehabilitation services on-site, which includes group counseling. Insurance often covers some, if not all, of one’s stay at a halfway house, which makes this type of home highly desirable. The length of stay in a halfway house ranges from six months to a year.
Another tool that can help drug offenders is drug courts. Drug courts are courts that are designed specifically to deal with substance abusers who are non-violent, although specific eligibility varies from state to state. These courts involve the combined efforts of various communities such as social services, law enforcement, probation, and mental health services, for example. The goal is to effectively to solve problems and help offenders return to society in a helpful and productive way. As a result, drug courts can reduce the use of drugs, aid families affected by drugs, and help to reduce crime.