According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a chronic brain disease that includes biological, behavioral, emotional, physical and social aspects in combination with the inability to control substance abuse. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.7 million Americans struggle with some form of substance use disorder. 

Because addiction is a chronic condition, relapse is a common part of the disease. Relapse rates are higher for addiction in comparison to those of other relapsing and chronic diseases, such as hypertension, type 1 diabetes and asthma. Relapse rates to drug and alcohol use are estimated to be between 40 and 60 percent of people who were previously addicted. Because rates are so high and relapse is a common struggle, having an understanding of relapse prevention skills is vital. 

What Is a Drug or Alcohol Relapse?

Relapse is the return to drug or alcohol use after an attempt to stop. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 40 to 60 percent of people once addicted to drugs will relapse at some point. 

Relapse is a common aspect of the disease and is often a form of self-medication. Brain chemistry and pathways are changed during repeated substance use and dependency is built on the substance. Once physical dependency is established, symptoms of withdrawal and drug cravings are established and side effects may develop if the drug is suddenly removed or stopped. A person struggling with substance dependency may not feel well or normal without the substance’s interaction in the brain and a return to the substance may feel like a good way to what seems to feel normal and combat cravings. 

Why Are Relapse Prevention Skills Important?

The rate of relapse is high, so it is important to be informed and prepared about the signs of and how to combat relapse. Many overdose related deaths occur right after relapse. Being equipped with relapse prevention skills can equip a person dealing with drug or alcohol abuse to be better able to prevent relapse from occurring while helping them to stay on track with their recovery. 

Relapse prevention therapy is a form of treatment designed to identify the behaviors, reasons and outcomes of relapse in a person after the initial stage of addiction treatment. Learning relapse prevention skills can be helpful in equipping people who are newly sober with the knowledge and self-confidence necessary to live out normal lives without living under the fear of relapse.

What Is the Best Way To Learn Relapse Prevention Skills?

The best way to learn relapse prevention skills is through a relapse prevention program. Relapse prevention skills can be obtained in relapse prevention programs that teach skills such as:

  • How to identify stressful objects and situations in relapse-triggering environments
  • How to identify and change unhealthy habits for those that are healthier
  • How to identify positive and fulfilling activities of sobriety and to participate in those that can fill time that was previously devoted to drugs or alcohol use 
  • How to cope with stressful situations, people, places or things to help one to avoid or diffuse the situation so it does not trigger relapse

Often, getting a person who is dependent on drugs or alcohol to identify and eradicate items, situations or people that are triggering from their lives is not adequate to prevent engaging with temptation. It is also vital to teach people to find ways to fill their time with substitutes that are healthy. Programs that teach relapse prevention skills are designed to teach how to fill free time with healthy substitutes while equipping people with time management and healthier ways to use their time. 

If you or a loved one are ready to reach the end of suffering from substance abuse, reach out to our caring and equipped team at Atlanta Recovery Place to help. The agonizing road of substance abuse does not have to continue. 

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