Orangetown Drug Treatment Centers knows that overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction is never an easy process, with multiple stages of treatment needing to be applied over a long time period. From the early stages of intervention and detox through to the later stages of relapse prevention and aftercare support, each part of drug addiction treatment is important to the overall process.
Detoxification enables the cessation of drug use, rehabilitation addresses the psychological aspects of drug addiction, and aftercare support promotes long term reintegration and recovery. Relapse prevention techniques and systems play an important role throughout this process, with dedicated prevention programs also applied during aftercare. During a normal relapse prevention program, therapists will engage with patients to help them recognize triggers and cope with the complex challenges that arise during the recovery process.
What is Relapse?
Known medically as recidivism, relapse describes the return of a past medical condition after a period of abstinence or stability. In the context of drug treatment, people relapse when they return to drug or alcohol use after a prolonged period of sobriety. Relapse can occur at any time, with some people going back to their old ways immediately after treatment and others relapsing months or even years down the road. In order to prevent this from taking place, counselors need to help recovering addicts recognize emotional and cognitive warning signs before they influence unwanted behavioral responses.
While relapse describes a return to drug or alcohol use, it also describes the progressive nature of emotional and mental relapse prior to a physical relapse event. For example, recovering drug addicts often struggle with their thoughts and feelings months before they return to drug use, with treatment programs able to recognize and treat these symptoms before they create additional complications.
The Phases of Relapse
Emotional relapse is the first phase of the relapse process, with clients often completely unaware of this stage as it's taking place. Common signs of emotional relapse include mood swings, anger, frustration, irritability, sadness, social isolation, fear, uncertainty, and unhelpful emotions. By helping people recognize these symptoms as they arise, counselors can stop the progression of more dangerous relapse symptoms.
Mental relapse is the next phase of the process, with clients often becoming aware of their transgressions during this stage. Common signs of mental relapse include drug cravings, spending time with drug using friends, planning specific relapse events, and drug fantasies. When left untreated, these warning signs often lead to a physical relapse event and breakdown of the recovery process. Because addiction is a learned behavior that develops over time, people need to set up new psychological associations and develop the coping skills necessary to create real lifestyle changes.
Mindfulness and Recognition
Mindfulness and trigger recognition strategies play an important role in the relapse prevention process. Patients are only able to stop the progression of relapse when they are aware of the warning signs, with meditation and mindfulness techniques sometimes applied to teach clients emotional awareness and control. While mindfulness is often linked with eastern religions such as Taoism and Buddhism, it simply means the act of paying attention to your sensations, feelings, and thoughts as they arise.
Similar techniques are applied in conventional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) systems, where therapists work with clients to help them identify critical behaviors and make positive changes from the inside-out. Practical support systems also play an important role in the treatment process, with recovering drug addicts much less likely to relapse when they have stable access to employment, accommodation, and community support networks.
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