How to Prevent Drug Addiction Relapse

Three Parts:Seeking Professional TreatmentDealing with Warning Signs for Drug UsePreventing Risk Factors

The task of drug addiction prevention may feel daunting, especially if you are newly out of treatment. You may feel overly confident of your ability to stay drug-free at times, then feel helpless at other times. Having a plan and focusing your effort on preventing drug relapse is one way to successfully prevent relapse. Making personal changes while participating in therapy and other treatments can greatly help you.

Part 1
Seeking Professional Treatment

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    See a therapist regularly. Behavior therapy is often used when treating people with drug addictions. Therapy for addiction prevention often involves identifying thoughts and behaviors that contribute to drug use and modifying or changing them to be more positive and productive. You may learn skills to increase your ability to cope with stress and cravings.[1]
    • Find a therapist you trust and with whom you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings.
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    Use medication responsibly. Part of some people’s treatment includes medication. Medication can be used to help treat withdrawal symptoms, stave off cravings, and to treat other existing disorders.[2] When taking medications to help with treatment and prevention, use as directed. Do not take more or less than prescribed.
    • Talk with your prescriber about your drug use history prior to obtaining medication. Avoid or use extreme caution with prescription drugs that can become addictive.[3]
    • If you have any questions or concerns about medication, talk to your prescriber.[4]
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    Join a support group. For many, a support group can be hugely beneficial in aiding recovery. Meeting with other people who have endured similar experiences as you can feel helpful and supportive. Among the group, people can share their experiences, personal ways they have prevented relapse, and provide guidance to those struggling.[5]
    • Many groups exist to assist people with recovery, including Secular Organizations for Sobriety, SMART Recovery, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, and Dual Recovery Anonymous.
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    Seek a drug treatment program. If you’ve experienced long-term drug use, a good option may be to attend a treatment program. These programs can help you cope with withdrawal symptoms and provide medical and psychological support and counseling. Many programs offer aftercare once you’ve completed treatment. This includes referrals to recovery services and support groups in the community. They should also create a discharge plan for you once you’re ready to leave.[6]
    • Look for a program accredited by the state with licensed mental health professionals and addiction specialists.

Part 2
Dealing with Warning Signs for Drug Use

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    Avoid romanticizing past drug use. You may find yourself thinking back to “the good ‘ol days” of using, having fun, and going to parties. Instead, remember why you got sober. There came a point where the use was no longer fun and instead interfered with living a happy life. Remember the problems you had: personal, relational, financial, health, and professional life. Remember how these things suffered.[7]
    • Write down things that make you happy in your sober life. Reflect on this list when you need a reminder of why you choose to be sober.
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    Steer clear of tempting situations. You may want to prove to yourself that you can be in situations or events without using. Maybe you want to go to events or parties you’ve enjoyed and convinced yourself that you can enjoy it and have fun without drugs. This is especially dangerous if you are recently out of recovery. While you may be able to avoid the first time, it’s a dangerous trap to think you can be around drugs and not use. Avoid physical and emotional triggers of drugs and past drug use.[8]
    • Avoid places you know will have drugs. Don’t try to rationalize with yourself. You know that the risk of relapse is high, so it’s best to avoid these situations.
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    Stay away from drug-using friends. You may miss your friends, but use caution in connecting with using friends. Part of prevention is choosing to create new friendships and avoiding tempting situations. Avoid people who want you to continue using or people who encourage you to go to environments where there’s known drug use.[9]
    • You may need to discontinue friendships with these people. Take them out of your address book and remove them from social media accounts. Safeguard yourself against possible temptations the people in your life may provide.
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    Watch out for major life stressors. Major life stressors can include personal injury, loss of a loved one, moving, changes in marital status, and changes in employment or financial situation.[10] You may even feel triggered if you feel especially bored in life. Be aware of any major life stressors and get help right away.
    • Find new ways to manage your stress. Go for a walk or jog, put on some calming music, visualize a calm and peaceful place, or engage in meditation.[11]
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    Create an emergency relapse prevention plan. If you’re starting to slip back into using, have a relapse prevention plan ready. Creating a relapse plan isn’t jinxing your treatment or prevention, it’s safeguarding your future. You may authorize people to take you to treatment, accompany you to support group meetings, or be in contact with your therapist. Involve people in your plan that you can rely on and that support your success in treating drug addiction.[12]
    • Create a detailed plan of action if relapse is occurring. Say who will be involved, what their involvement is, and what specific steps will be made.

Part 3
Preventing Risk Factors

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    Develop healthy stress reduction techniques. Stress is likely to cause a relapse if it gets out of control.[13] By developing some healthy stress reduction techniques, you may be able to prevent a relapse during periods of high stress. Try to learn at least one stress reduction technique that you can use to reduce stress daily and during periods of high stress as well. Some good stress reduction techniques include:[14]
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    Address health problems.[15] Take care of any health problems you may have. Health problems can trigger drug use. Stay on top of regular medical appointments, be consistent with any prescribed medications, and live a healthy lifestyle. Prioritize your health and take care of your body.
    • Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, and adopt healthy eating habits. When you feel good, you’re less likely to use.[16]
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    Maintain good friendships. Surround yourself with friends who do not use. Engage in healthy friendships with people who support you and your recovery.[17] Find people to do activities with that do not include substances. Pick up a new hobby and meet people who also enjoy doing similar things as you do.
    • Join a sports league, a board game club, or a hiking group.
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    Manage your painful emotions. Notice periods where you feel depression, anxiety, sadness, grief, rejection, hurt, or other triggering feelings. In the past, you may have turned to drugs to help alleviate the pain. Now, stay aware of these feelings yet approach them differently. Acknowledge the emotions you have and approach them differently.[18]
    • Remind yourself that the pain is temporary, as is substance use. Your problems still exist even once the drugs wear off. Approach your emotions in curiosity, kindness, and acceptance.
    • For more information, check out How to Do Mindful Meditation.
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    Remember that relapse isn’t total failure. If you relapse, it’s not the end of the world. Remember that you were able to stay sober before and you can do it again. Reach out for help, get back on track with treatment, and implement new strategies to keep yourself clean.[19]
    • Keep at it!

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Categories: Addictions