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Relapse Prevention Planning is a plan and a strategy to help alcohol and other drug abusers cope more effectively and consistently with the stressors or triggers in their environments that may cause a relapse and a return to dependency.
Relapse prevention is about incorporating new strategies for the substance abuse addict to deal with and overcome all of the potential issues, challenges and situations that would in the past have surely wreaked havoc and plunged him or her deeper into addiction. With all that in mind, the prevention of relapse and a relapse prevention plan are critical parts of any long-term treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
Drug addiction and alcohol abuse are chronic diseases and, as with any chronic disease, there is the possibility of relapse. In treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, relapse is the return to a specific behavior after a period of abstinence (stopping) from that particular behavior – most often the drug or alcohol abuse.
Addiction is influenced by social, clinical and medical factors. Relapse prevention planning, however, has been demonstrated to increase the overall effectiveness, and success, of any treatment.
In order to understand the fundamentals behind Relapse Prevention, it’s important to first understand relapse itself. In medical terms, a relapse is a regression after a period of partial recovery from an illness.
There is one accepted fact about relapse: Relapse does not come on suddenly and without warning, it is a process over time.
A relapse does not just happen by itself. There are outside influences and contributing factors, and it’s fairly easy for trained professionals to identify evidence and warning signs that an individual might be in danger of returning to the destructive patterns of substance abuse.
Relapse Prevention Planning
There are specific principles that relate to successful prevention of relapse. Learning about what general factors cause relapse increases an individual’s ability to avoid relapse increases.
Some of these factors include:
Self-regulation and Stabilization. Stabilization is an important part of the process of detox from alcohol and drug addiction. Stabilization includes many things, including recuperation from associated stress, resolution of interpersonal and situational crises that threaten sobriety and the establishment of a daily structure.
Structure. Daily structure might include a variety of things – like stress management, diet, exercise and regular contact with therapists and self-help groups. Stabilization is a critical component of not only the recovery process, but of the relapse prevention process, as well. Stabilization allows an individual to self-regulate feelings, judgment, behavior and other emotions. The risk of relapse is the greatest during the period of stabilization and it’s typically in the client’s best interests that this be done in a controlled environment.
Integration and Self-Assessment. As an individual’s understanding and acceptance grows, the risk of relapse further decreases. This is the period of time when it’s important to explore the situations, events and triggers that may have led to relapse in the past.
The most important thing for an individual suffering from addiction is understanding one simple thing: relapse is inevitable if one takes no steps to prevent it.
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