If you or a loved one has achieved recovery from drug abuse, congratulations. Recovery is a critical step towards living a healthy and meaningful life away from the harmful effects of drugs. However, recovery from drug abuse requires consistent upkeep to prevent drug relapse.
Drug addiction is considered a chronic disease, just like other chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and even cancer. With chronic disease, it’s important to remember that it can require life-long maintenance and check-ins to maintain control—but it can be done. With the right tools and support, it’s possible for you or your loved one to prevent drug addiction relapse from happening.
Here is more information on what a drug relapse is and 10 tips to help prevent it from occurring.
What Is a Drug Relapse?
Relapse occurs when a sober person starts using drugs again. It’s not uncommon for people in recovery to experience relapse, but it can be prevented with the right plan of action in place.
Since drug addiction is a chronic disease, relapse will always be a possibility. Think of another chronic disease such as asthma. Asthmatics can learn strategies to keep it under control with medication, avoiding certain triggers, and living a healthy lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean asthma can’t affect a person in the future.
In fact, per drugabuse.gov, drug relapse statistics are almost equal to (if not greater in some cases) than that of asthma, hypertension, and type II diabetes. This goes to show that drug addiction should be viewed and handled in a similar manner to that of any other chronic disease—with patience, maintenance, and proper support to prevent relapse.
What Causes a Drug Relapse?
If you have a loved one who has suffered from drug addiction, it might be difficult for you to understand why drug addicts relapse. There are many things that contribute to relapse and everyone has their triggers.
It’s vital to understand your personal triggers or those of a loved one in order to support long-term sobriety and avoid relapse.
Some common causes of relapse are:
- Socializing with old friends who use drugs
- Hanging out in places that don’t support sobriety (bars, nightclubs, hookah lounges, etc.)
- Lack of direction (boredom)
- Emotional instability
Warning Signs of a Drug Relapse
Although each individual can have unique warning signs indicating a relapse, there are specific stages of relapse and within those stages, a person can display certain behaviors indicating their sobriety is on the rocks. The stages of relapse are as follows:
Stage One: Emotional Relapse – A person in recovery isn’t considering using at this time, but their emotional well-being is not at its finest. Self-care is not a priority at this moment and that can be displayed as someone isolating themselves, not following through with NA meetings, focusing on negativity, compulsive behavior, poor eating, difficulty sleeping, poor exercise habits, and more.
Stage Two: Mental Relapse – A person is in a mental push/pull, wanting to use, but also not wanting to use. They may be engaging in dishonesty, feeling an urge to visit old haunts, see old “friends”, downplaying or justifying their past drug use, and planning a way to use again. A person cannot safely remain in this stage for too long before they’ll physically relapse.
Stage Three: Physical Relapse – A person is using drugs again, whether once (this is called a “slip”) or habitually at this point. If someone had a strong relapse prevention plan in place, they most likely wouldn’t have reached this point.
How to Help a Loved One Avoid a Drug Relapse
When a person seeks treatment for drug abuse, it’s usually because their attempt to quit on their own proved to be too difficult. Having a solid drug relapse prevention plan in place is the key to long-term sobriety.
If you have a loved one who is now living a drug-free life, there are many things you can do to help them stay on the right path.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of 10 tips to help prevent a relapse.
1. Frequent Check-Ins
Stay in regular contact with your loved one and check-in on them to see how they’re doing. Keep conversations positive and focus on what’s going right in the person’s life versus what’s going wrong. Celebrate everyday wins big and small.
Remember, every conversation doesn’t have to be centered around your loved one’s past addiction and present recovery, you can also talk about the bright future ahead of you both.
2. Adopt an Active & Healthy Lifestyle
There are so many incredible benefits to exercising. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the immediate benefits of physical activity on the brain is reduced short-term feelings of anxiety for adults. This is great news since about 20% of Americans with a drug abuse problem also suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Daily exercise not only helps you commit to a routine, but its physical and mental benefits are endless.
Additionally, a healthy diet and adequate sleep should also be a priority. In fact, there are specific foods that are proven to aid in the recovery process. As always, adults should try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Not only does sleep help your mental health, but it also has positive, healing effects on multiple parts of the body.
3. Speak Up When Something Feels “Off”
This next point goes for both the person in recovery and their loved ones. As a recovering drug addict, it’s important to get to know yourself and your triggers. Once you can identify things that cause you to want to use drugs again, you can let someone know that something doesn’t feel right, and you need additional support.
On the flip side, if you have a loved one and have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, speak up. A thoughtful and compassionate conversation around your concerns can be much more productive than accusing your loved one of drug relapse.
4. Identify Your Stressors
Achieving sobriety can be incredibly stressful on the mind and body. You’ve been through a lot, so try to identify the things that cause you the most stress. Is it your daily surroundings? Family life? Job? Finances? Every person’s stressors and triggers are unique and can change throughout life.
Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can learn coping skills to deal with them when they arise, and you can also position yourself in the most optimal way to avoid them when possible.
5. Learn Grounding Techniques
Grounding techniques are coping strategies that can be incredibly helpful when you’re feeling anxious, panicked, or just plain stressed. They help you re-gain control and re-center the mind away from negative thoughts and back into a present and grounded place.
One of the most effective grounding techniques is called the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. Start with slow, deep breathing and in the quiet of your mind list:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
6. Maintain Accountability
Accountability can look like a lot of things for a person recovering from drug abuse. For many, it can mean attending daily or weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings, going to regular therapy sessions, taking medications as prescribed, avoiding certain triggers/stressors, and generally being honest with yourself and your loved ones.
One of the best ways to maintain accountability is by having a strong support system that can help you with checks and balances. A lot of recovering addicts have a sponsor who is also a former addict and serves as a mentor. A sponsor is usually a phone call away and can help a recovering addict navigate their recovery and be a shoulder to lean on when old habits and urges strike.
7. Find the Right Treatment
Finding the right treatment goes beyond the rehab facility. A long-term treatment plan to prevent drug relapse is crucial to sobriety. Once a person is out of a drug rehabilitation facility, they need continued support from medical professionals, family members, friends, and possibly a sponsor.
If your loved one’s rehab program has ended, be there to support them and ensure they have a treatment plan in place to help them avoid a relapse.
8. Take Up a New Hobby
If you or a loved one has recovered from drug addiction, it’s like having a new lease on life. Now is the time to focus your energy on positive things like pursuing a new hobby. Think about your interests and talents and go from there. A new hobby can have countless benefits, so the earlier you can take up a new hobby, the better.
9. Find A Supportive Group
Whether it’s through Narcotics Anonymous, your rehabilitation center, or another avenue, a recovering drug addict must find a supportive group of like-minded people. A support group discusses the pitfalls of addiction and coping mechanisms to maintain sobriety. Former addicts, whether 20 days sober or 20 years sober, can all find common ground through the right support group. A simple Google search can help connect you to a group nearby.
10. Create an Emergency Plan of Action
The last thing a recovering addict or family member of a former addict wants is a drug relapse. Take time to sit down with your loved one and come up with an emergency plan of action in case sobriety is on the line. The plan of action can include identifying warning signs and important phone numbers to reach a sponsor, rehab facility, medical professional, etc.
With the Right Tools, Long-term Sobriety is Possible
When it comes to drug addiction recovery, relapse is always a potential. Knowing the signs, personal triggers, and preventative strategies can go a long way in helping you or a loved one continue a sober lifestyle.
Remember, drug addiction is a chronic disease that requires long-term maintenance. If you or a loved one are suffering from relapse and are ready to get sober again, please call AION Health Group for help today at 888-912-2454 or contact us confidentially via email.
We provide patients suffering from relapse with a comprehensive approach to addiction recovery through a wide variety of drug addiction treatment programs at three, Florida-based treatment facilities. Our admissions staff is standing by 24/7 to help when you’re ready.