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Preventing Drug Relapse: What Are the Steps?

Over man 20 million people in the United States struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. This disease affects people physically and mentally, and it often continues to affect them long after they’ve sought treatment. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) reports that between 40 and 60 percent of people suffer a relapse after recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction.  

Although relapse seems to affect most individuals fighting for sobriety, it is a preventable experience. With the right treatment, a dedicated support system, and a commitment to abstaining from drugs or alcohol, it is possible to remain sober for the rest of your life. In this article, we are going to examine some of the basic steps you can take to help you or someone you love to prevent a drug relapse.

Step 1:Get treatment.

  • First, it is very important that an individual dealing with addiction seeks out treatment from a professional program. Addiction is a complicated condition, and getting sober involves much more than ceasing to use drugs or alcohol. In treatment, clients can safely withdraw from an addictive substance, go to therapy to discover the root causes of their addictions, and dedicate themselves to recovery.
  • There are a variety of treatment options for people who are addicted to drugs. Some facilities use medications (like those discussed in the American Journal of Psychiatry) to reduce cravings for alcohol, opioids, or nicotine. Others focus primarily on uncovering the psychological trigger that pushes a person toward addiction. To truly start your journey toward recovery, it is important that you find the treatment plan that suits your needs.

Step 2: Create an aftercare plan.

After leaving a treatment facility, a person’s sobriety is very fragile and vulnerable. It is important to develop an aftercare plan – an individualized program that will help a person maintain their sobriety as they return to everyday life. There are many facets of aftercare plans available today, including:

  • Outpatient treatment
  • Living in a sober living home
  • Group counseling
  • Individual therapy
  • Peer support or 12-Step programs

Developing a plan with friends, loved ones, and a psychologist or other treatment professional is a vital part of recovery. A 2010 study from the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that individuals who moved into a sober living facility (or halfway house) after leaving treatment had a 68 percent chance of sobriety six months later – a substantial improvement from the 11 percent sobriety rate of individuals who did not have an aftercare plan. For many, aftercare plans are a key factor in keeping sober.
Step 3: Break old habits.
When someone is in recovery, it’s important that they develop new hobbies, keep busy, and sever ties with friends they were getting high or drinking with. This can be very difficult for both the person recovering and their old friends. However, helping to break old habits and create new ones is an important part of preventing relapse.

According to the University of South Florida, relaxing hobbies like reading, yoga, or meditation can be instrumental in preventing relapse. These hobbies distract a person from possible cravings for drugs or alcohol, and they are healthier ways to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression – feelings that can pull a person back into the clutches of their addiction.Step 4: Build a support system

When someone first leaves rehab, they may feel a great deal of trepidation. They are stepping out of their comfort zone into a world that could possibly pull them back into the dangerous life they were living before – and without a doctor or therapist to guide them day by day. During this time, it is paramount that a person has a support network of family and friends that they can lean on.

A 2016 article in Psych Central espouses the importance of one’s social circle as they work to overcome addiction. As the article explains, most individuals decide to accept help and get sober because of encouragement and positive involvement from their family and friends. Because of this, family and friends are more influential than they may recognize when it comes to helping their loved one stay sober.

The journey of recovery is a long one, and there is no guaranteed “end point.” However, if someone you care about is struggling with an addiction, know that this disease doesn’t have to define their life. With dedication, careful planning, and a support group of loved ones, it’s possible to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.