Relapse Prevention: Strategies to Avoid a Drug Relapse

Relapse prevention is a broad category of skills and behaviors that is crucial for addicts in recovery. Stress, environmental and social factors, one’s attitude, and overall mental health all play a role in determining the risk of relapse. While not all of these are completely in the addict’s control, many strategies can be learned to increase the odds of lasting recovery. From therapy and 12 step work to mindfulness and the development of healthy habits, there are numerous approaches to relapse prevention that can be learned and practiced by anyone.

Cognitive Therapy for Relapse Prevention and Co-Occurring Disorders

In “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery”, the authors point to cognitive therapy as an essential tool of relapse prevention, citing its power to “change negative thinking and develop healthy coping skills”. Cognitive therapy helps addicts recognize their faulty and self-limiting beliefs, identify the errors within, and replace them with more truthful, positive ideas about themselves and their ability to recover. Cognitive therapy works largely because these limiting beliefs are not always just about recovery. Instead, it can aid in treating common mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety, which can decrease quality of life and increase the likelihood of relapse. Therapists also work with addicts on developing a personalized recovery plan, and in developing specific relaxation and coping mechanisms to address cravings and avoid relapse.

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention

One approach to relapse prevention involves the development of mindfulness – an awareness of one’s current feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations that can help addicts accept difficult feelings rather than fighting them with substance abuse. Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) is a recently developed 8-week program for addicts coming out of initial treatment designed to “increase awareness of potentially triggering situations and cues, and to decrease cognitive and behavioral reactivity” to these difficult feelings. MBRP thus decreases stress and gives addicts in recovery the ability to cope with stresses, one of the major risk factors for relapse, in much healthier ways.

The Role of Step Work in Preventing Relapse

12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, can play a key role in preventing relapse. Social and environmental factors can make or break a person’s recovery. 12-step groups provide a community of individuals who are focused on recovery, and an outlet for addicts to openly discuss their experiences with substance abuse and the strategies that have helped or hindered their path to recovery. 12-step attendance is associated with better substance abuse outcomes, such as abstinence rates and less severe relapse episodes.

Lifestyle Choices and Habits for Sustained Recovery

A number of habits and lifestyle choices can help one maintain recovery. Along with a host of other health benefits, practices such as exercise or meditation can aid in preventing relapse by reducing stress and strengthening the body and mind. Developing relationships with people supportive of one’s recovery, such as in 12-step meetings, can be key, as is avoiding relationships or environments where substance use is encouraged or excused. Creating an orderly, clean, and calm living space free of distraction or the temptation to abuse substances is critical. Recovery and relapse prevention are not about any one behavior or technique in isolation. To combat the powerful feelings and cravings provoked by addiction, relapse prevention involves creating strategies and behaviors that support the mind and body in equal measure. Many of these techniques can be combined or practiced separately, with one supporting the other. The more tools a recovering addict has at their disposal, the greater the likelihood of continued recovery.

Relapse Prevention in Drug Rehab Treatment

Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers a unique combination of 12-step work with clinical care. Our inpatient drug rehab programs include therapy, step work, and multiple forms of active recovery that arm addicts with the techniques they need to overcome addiction, treat any co-occurring mental disorders, avoid relapse, and achieve a better life of sustained recovery. If you or a loved one is in the grip of addiction, please contact us today. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, please contact our admissions specialists at 855.712.7784 . We can help.

Call 855.712.7784 for Immediate Help

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