Triggers and Relapse Prevention

One of the primary goals of a relapse prevention plan is to anticipate any triggers that might cause you to start abusing intoxicating and mind altering substances again, as well as deal with them before they even happen. Read on to find out more about how this works:

Understanding Triggers to Relapse

According to ASAM - the American Society of Addiction Medicine - addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. It comes with different physical, emotional, social, biological, and behavioral aspects of a substance use disorder. Often, it is also characterized by an innate inability to deal with, control, and overcome your drug and alcohol use.

Since addiction is a chronic disease, it follows that relapse is something that you will have to deal with while trying to overcome this condition. NIDA - the National Institute on Drug Abuse - further states that the relapse rates for addicts is similar to those experienced by people struggling with other relapsing and chronic conditions like type 1 diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. In particular, there is a 40 to 60 percent chance that you might relapse during your addiction recovery.

Relapse, on the other hand, refers to going back to substance use and abuse even after you have been free of alcohol and drugs for a given period of time. To deal with it, it is important to understand the link between triggers and relapse prevention.

The Risk of Relapse

As we mentioned above, relapse is one of the conditions that you have to deal with while trying to overcome your substance use disorder. Although it might feel like it, relapse does not mean that you have failed in your recovery attempts.

As you continue battling an addiction, your brain circuitry would have been disrupted and altered by your repeated drug and alcohol abuse. As a result, the pathways that are involved in your pleasure, impulse control, decision making, memory, and reward processes will also be affected by substance use.

Repeated drug and alcohol use also gives rise to changes in the chemical pathways and processes of the brain. As a result, you will develop physical and psychological dependence on the intoxicating and mind altering substances that you take.

After you have developed dependence, you might experience drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms as a side effect of this condition. However, this will only happen if you suddenly stop, remove, or significantly reduce your substance intake.

If you are dependent on drugs and alcohol, you might not be able to feel normal or function properly unless these substances are interacting with your brain. As a result, relapse might seem like the natural course of action. Only through relapse will you be able to combat your drug cravings and curb your withdrawal symptoms. It is for this reason that relapse is considered to be a type of self-medication.

There are also certain triggers that could increase your risk of relapse. By understanding these triggers, you might be able to avoid or even completely minimize your relapse risk as a response to these triggers.

Addiction Treatment Programs

While seeking treatment for a substance use disorder, it is essential that you consider both the physical and psychological factors of your addiction. You should also get both of these factors managed during your addiction treatment so that you can progress in recovery with less significant and fewer relapse episodes.

Often, these treatment programs will help you achieve physical stability by providing you with medically managed and supervised detoxification services. This is because the initial goal of treatment would be to safely remove the alcohol and drugs that are lodged in your brain and body. Detox can also minimize or completely eliminate your drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Although detox may deal with the physical aspects of your substance abuse and addiction, you can only reduce your risk of falling prey to triggers through a professional relapse prevention plan created during your drug rehab.

Additionally, rehabilitation will ensure that you address the behavioral, emotional, and psychological aspects of your substance use disorder - as well as deal with any co-occurring mental health and medical disorders that you might be struggling with.

To this end, drug rehabs will offer behavioral therapies to help you become more independent and self-reliant. These therapies can also make it easier for you to deal with any triggers and stressful situations that might otherwise have caused you to relapse.

Once you start achieving some semblance of recovery in an addiction treatment program, you will also work with the professionals at the facility to create an appropriate and workable relapse prevention plan.

Holistic Treatment Methods

Another way to reduce your risk of relapse by overcoming your triggers would be through a holistic treatment program. Also known as alternative treatment, these programs will deal with you as a whole person - and not just the various aspects of your addiction.

They will also use holistic methods to improve your quality of life - including but not limited to the emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical aspects of your lifestyle. In the process, the program could make it easier for you to undertake relapse prevention in the long term. These methods include:

  • Acupuncture: Trained acupuncturists will use needles to improve the energy flow in your body, reduce drug cravings, and improve your bodily functions. This treatment might make it easier for you to reduce your risk of relapse in the long term.
  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapists will use the power of touch to improve your bodily systems and enhance the flow of blood in your body. In the process, this could enhance your mental functions and capabilities.
  • Mindfulness Meditation: Through mindful mediation, you will learn how to become more aware of yourself. As a result, you might improve your ability to recognize triggers and cope with them instead of resorting to drug relapse.
  • Yoga: You can use the stretching and breathing techniques of yoga to improve your mental health, reduce your drug cravings, as well as manage any stressful feelings that you might be struggling with.

Relapse Prevention Tips

If you relapse after you have been through a drug and alcohol treatment program, it does not necessarily mean that your drug rehab program failed or that you absolutely need to check into an intensive rehab program.

However, it does mean that you need some form of help to ensure that you do not relapse again. Often, this would involve learning how to deal with any other triggers that you might encounter in the future.

If you relapse, you should take some steps to ensure that you do not experience another relapse. Often, you may have to go through another treatment method or model to ensure that you do not succumb to triggers in the future.

For instance, you might learn how to realize that stress is among the most common triggers you may encounter. In the process, you will get to understand how to recognize and manage any issues that could potentially trigger your stress. Additionally, you will learn how to regulate your mood so that you do not suffer a relapse.

In the following section, you will learn about some useful tips and tricks to help you deal with triggers as well as avoid or reduce the risk of a relapse:

  • Always keep your mind occupied with positive thoughts and away from any substance abuse and addiction reminisces
  • Ask for assistance whenever you feel the urge to start using intoxicating and mind altering substances again
  • Attend all your counseling and therapy sessions
  • Attend support group meetings on a regular basis
  • Avoid all potential triggers that could cause you to start using drugs again, such as the things, people, environments, and places that are linked to your past substance abuse and addiction
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Continue taking all the supplements and medications that were prescribed for you during your addiction treatment program
  • Eat a properly balanced diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and protein but low in refined sugars
  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Get enough sleep
  • Improve your self-reliance and independence
  • Surround yourself with support from positive people in your life, such as family and friends
  • Take up creative endeavors like playing musical instruments, dancing, writing, sculpting, and painting
  • Try to ensure that you do not expect too much from the other people in your life
  • Undergo thorough psychological and medical assessments to uncover all co-occurring mental health disorders that you might be struggling with over and above your substance abuse, and get them managed appropriately
  • Use some holistic drug addiction treatment methods to naturally manage your stress levels, including meditation and yoga

Getting Help

In the long term, dealing with triggers requires that you build a proper relapse prevention plan while you are still enrolled in an addiction treatment program. After checking out of the program, you should follow the relapse prevention plan that you created so that you are strong enough to resist any triggers that might tempt or cause you to start taking intoxicating and mind altering substances again. If you do relapse, go back to your treatment program or get help from your support network to ensure that it does happen again.


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