5 Tips for Preventing Relapse

Addiction Treatment
Jan Trobisch

Jan Trobisch

Addiction is a not a mental or behavioral disorder but a systemic disease that medical experts now believe is chronic and relapsing. Similar to other chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, a substance addiction demands counseling, intensive psychotherapy, lifestyle changes and medication to help the addict learn how to cope with strong emotions, cravings and other problems affecting their ability to stay sober.

Why Is Drug Relapse Prevention so Difficult?

What makes nearly all addicts vulnerable to at least one instance of relapse following a successful recovery? Research investigating why addicts continue to crave a drug indicates that these cravings emerge from a physiological phenomenon associated with permanent changes in the way the brain functions due to a long-term substance addiction. Additionally, the brain’s ability to readily adjust to alterations in chemical processes resulting from addiction makes it even more difficult for the brain to function without the presence of addictive substances. Essentially, the brain’s reward system cannot “forget” how good it feels to be affected by drugs, alcohol or even addictive behaviors such as internet or sex addictions.

Alcoholism Relapse Prevention — How to Prevent Relapse Following Recovery

Alcohol relapse prevention tips include:

  • Recognizing situations that may provoke cravings and learning proactive preventative strategies to reduce stress. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness training and meditative techniques may help recovering addicts stop physiologically conditioned responses that cause the release of craving-inducing stress hormones.
  • Understanding that cravings are the result of a complex cascade of biological impulses precipitated by chemicals in the brain. Cravings are not the result of weakness, unwillingness to fight an addiction or lack of motivation.
  • Avoiding old haunts and “drinking buddies.” Cravings are usually triggered by environmental cues that elicit a conditioned response from the recovering addict. Common cues are locations such as bars, hangouts or streets; other people with whom the addict associated while taking drugs; devices used by addicts like needles, rolling papers or even a book of matches and situations that cause stress to the recovering addict. Sometimes, simply watching a television show depicting addicts using drugs can be triggering.
  • Joining a support group and making friends who are also in recovery is one of the most powerful relapse prevention activities addicts can engage in and pursue.
  • Avoiding anything that reminds an alcoholic of their addiction. Even recovering alcoholics who have been clean for several years react almost instinctively to triggers physiologically — that is, their heart rate increases, blood pressure rises and pupils dilate. These same physical changes occur when an addict “anticipates” getting high or intoxicated, a reaction that shows the almost subliminal power triggers have over recovering addicts.

Drug Relapse Prevention Assistance at Synergy Lifestyle Center

It is vital that addicts entering a recovery program receive comprehensive, professional therapy incorporating psychoeducation concerning coping and life management skills as well as relaxation techniques that can help recovering addicts deal with cravings. If you suffer from an addiction or know someone who does, call Synergy Lifestyle Center today to start getting the help you need and deserve.