Relapse Prevention: 5 Simple Ways to Prevent Relapse

Relapse occurs when an individual returns to substance abuse after drug or alcohol recovery. Read on to learn more about addiction relapse. 

Table of Contents

What is Relapse?

Relapse happens when a person stops maintaining the goal of discontinuing alcohol or other substances intake. It also defines a state where the individual returns to previous behavioral patterns after treatment.

relapse prevention

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How Common is Drug Relapse?

In a 2014 survey, reports showed 21.5 million Americans above 12 years had substance use disorder in the previous year. This statistic corresponds to one in twelve people. Another study shows that 40 to 60 percent of people relapse within 30 days of treatment. The statistics also show that 85 percent of people relapse within the first year.1

What is Relapse Prevention?

Relapse prevention focuses on utilizing skills and a cognitive-behavioral approach to identify situations that may cause relapse. Once the individual can identify situations that increase the tendency for relapse, it’s possible to develop suitable relapse prevention strategies to address those situations. Relapse prevention is very imperative in recovery because it builds confidence.

Stages of Relapse

There are three fundamental stages of relapse, including:2
  • Emotional Relapse: During an emotional relapse, the individual doesn’t necessarily want to begin the intake of substances or alcohol. Instead, the person starts to neglect self-care. Such individuals may begin to keep to themselves, isolate themselves from others, experience insomnia, and have a poor diet.
  • Mental Relapse: Mental relapse is one of the most difficult stages, as it usually seems like an individual is at war with their mind. During this stage, the person craves drugs and alcohol and may lie to themselves that there are no consequences.
  • Physical Relapse: At this stage, the intake of substances or alcohol is seemingly uncontrollable. Once an individual experiences physical relapse, it signifies total relapse.

Why are Relapse Prevention Skills Important?

Relapse prevention skills help individuals develop coping skills that help identify triggers. In recovery centers, these skills help people avoid situations that may cause relapse after identification.

Most Common Triggers of Relapse

Some of the most common triggers of relapse include:

  • Boredom
  • Stress
  • Money problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Anger
  • Falling into old habits

5 Simple Ways to Prevent Relapse

Preventing relapse doesn’t always need to be difficult. With the right support from loved ones and recovery centers, you can avoid triggers of relapse. Some simple ways that may help your journey will be detailed below.

Understanding How Abuse Develops

Understanding how abuse develops may involve comprehending how drugs and alcohol may change the chemical systems in the brain. Constant intake of substances may make people develop a certain tolerance level. This level of tolerance causes a need for an increased amount of substance intake to experience the same effect.

Avoid Temptation

A part of avoiding temptation stems from understanding how abuse develops and the triggers. Another word for temptation can be “addiction relapse triggers.” Some major examples include becoming too angry, hungry, tired, or lonely. It’s also generally advisable to avoid situations that may cause significant stress.

Seek Help

Individuals don’t need to try recovering all by themselves, and it’s important to get support to make the process of preventing relapse much easier. A reputable addiction treatment center can teach how to cope and deal with negative thoughts or cravings.

Examine Risk Factors

Some relapse risk factors to examine are inadequate social and emotional support, lack of motivation, low self-efficacy, and negative affect. Examining these risk factors and reducing the risks may involve a complex interplay of motivation, environment, and thoughts. However, the only way to handle those risks is to examine them and their direct effects carefully.

Well-Balanced Life

A person with a well-balanced life has better resilience, which is an imperative part of recovery. A balanced life involves balancing nutrition, exercise, sleep, social connection, and rest. An individual with a well-balanced life may have a lower chance of relapse.

Steps to Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan

Here are some steps that may help in creating a suitable alcohol relapse prevention plan: 

  1. Assess Your History with Drugs and Alcohol
  2. Determine Any Signs that Could Lead to Relapse
  3. Establish an Action Plan

Once an individual can take those steps, they are ahead in creating a suitable alcohol relapse prevention plan or a drug relapse prevention plan.3

What to Include in a Relapse Prevention Plan?

When creating an alcohol relapse prevention plan or any other similar relapse plan, try keeping the following in mind:

  • Triggers: Highlight the major triggers that may cause relapse in your relapse plan.
  • Manage Cravings: Provide a detailed breakdown of steps to take in managing cravings.
  • Preventative Tools: Look out for preventative tools that can help create a distraction from drug intake and relapse. Examples of the tools imperative in relapse prevention include journaling, attending a support meeting, or writing a gratitude list.
  • Support Groups and Programs: Support groups will help you know you’re not alone and provide helpful information for recovery.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Some changes may include better exercise, improved sleep patterns, and building positive support networks.

Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan

When creating a relapse prevention plan for substance abuse, it’s helpful to:

Assess History with Drugs and Alcohol

Individuals should ask certain questions when creating a suitable relapse prevention plan for substance abuse. Some of these questions include:
  • Why did I previously relapse?
  • Was there a specific period where I was more prone to substance use disorder?
  • What are the thought patterns that increase the chances of substance abuse?
  • Were there specific people that increased the chances of relapse?

Determine Relapse Signs

It’s helpful to take some time out to brainstorm a list of scenarios and warning signs that may cause relapse. Certain people may begin to think or act differently when they are about to relapse. Creating and sharing this list of signs with the treatment center will provide the necessary information to prevent relapse.

Establish the Actions to Take to Avoid Using

In relapse prevention, give a detailed breakdown of the actions to take when you notice the warning signs. For instance, an individual can plan to attend a support meeting or speak to a family member when cravings occur.

relapse prevention plan

Relapse Prevention Models

When unsure how to move through the recovery process, it’s helpful to follow one of the three major relapse prevention models. Some of these models important in developing a relapse prevention plan will be discussed in the following section.

Gorski-Cenaps Relapse Prevention Model

Terry Gorski’s relapse prevention model states certain steps are crucial in developing the CENAPS relapse prevention model. Another name for this model is the “Gorski relapse prevention plan.” The prevention model or relapse prevention plan for substance abuse involves:
  • Self-regulation
  • Understanding
  • Integration
  • Self-knowledge
  • Change
  • Support
  • Coping skills
  • Awareness
  • Maintenance

Marlatt’s Model of Relapse Prevention

Marlatt’s relapse prevention model highlights how phasic (short-loved) and tonic (stable) influences interact to evaluate the possibility of a relapse. Tonic signifies how susceptible an individual is to relapse, while phasic responses serve as factors that may cause or prevent relapse.4

Support Group for Relapse Prevention

Support groups can serve as a relapse prevention program to help individuals know that they are not alone in recovery. It can also be a relapse prevention therapy option in helping a person learn helpful information that ascertains progress in recovery. Other benefits of support groups include gaining hope, improving social skills, and increasing self-understanding.

Get the Support You Need to Prevent Relapse at Profound Treatment

The fear of relapse can be severe to many, which causes a change in daily activities and an increased level of stress. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult with the available relapse prevention strategies Profound Treatment offers. You are not alone in this journey. Get help today in developing and following through with a suitable relapse prevention plan!

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