Stress and addiction relapse are two topics that go together all too often. Not only can stress be difficult to manage in everyday life, but it is also one of the most likely relapse triggers, and can even be a root cause of addiction.
Fortunately, addiction can be treated and managed successfully. Treatment allows those who suffer from addiction to change the effects drugs have on their brain and behavior in order to take control of their lives again. Addiction is a chronic disease, similar to heart disease and asthma in the sense that it can be controlled but never eliminated. This means there will be times when it flairs up, and in the case of addiction that can mean a relapse.
Relapse can happen for many reasons. Luckily, it can also be prevented through many different types of treatment. If you have relapsed, remember that there is still hope. Your treatment may need to be adjusted, but regardless, it can continue. Call 706-480-8733 today and let us help you get back in control of your recovery.
Relapse is when an individual returns to drug use after some time without using. Some, but not all, people experience relapse as part of the process of treating and recovering from addiction. Many individuals have one or more relapses during their recovery.
Recovery is a continuous process. It takes time to apply the tools learned in treatment to your life, and trying again is the best step to take to overcome addiction. Relapse can be an opportunity to learn more about the substance abuse triggers that may be causing an individual to relapse.
Even though there is not a cure for addiction we can treat and manage it successfully. This is because it is similar to chronic diseases such as heart disease and asthma. Relapse in addiction treatment has rates that are similar to these and other chronic diseases. If an individual stops following the treatment plan made by their medical professionals, they have a higher likelihood of relapse. Luckily, newer treatments are helping prevent relapse.
Relapse is not uncommon. However, it is very serious.
In some cases, it can be extremely dangerous. When a person is using a drug regularly, they develop a tolerance to it. This means they need to use more to get the same effect from the drug. When a person does not use it for a while their tolerance may drop.
For some drugs, if an individual uses the same amount they were using before treatment they have a higher chance of overdosing. This is because their bodies do not have the same tolerance to the drug as they did before. An overdose is when an individual uses a drug that produces feelings of discomfort, life-threatening symptoms, or death.
Does Relapse Mean Treatment Has Failed?
Many people who are attempting to quit using drugs feel like they have failed if they relapse. However, relapse does not mean that treatment has failed. Relapse is a normal part of recovery, and many people who are in recovery experience it. It may be hard to do, but continuing treatment after relapse is the best path to take to overcome addiction. When a person recovering from addiction treatment relapses, there are likely changes that need to be in their treatment plan. It is essential to speak with your doctor in this situation because the treatment may need to be resumed, modified, or changed altogether.
Defining a Trigger
Triggers are cues that can cause the individual to have an urge to relapse and start using drugs again. They can be as simple as a reminder. Triggers can include people, places, things, being around drugs, and even emotions. Difficult emotions are some of the most potent triggers — hence the often-discussed connection between stress and addiction relapse. One of the main goals of treatment is to provide patients with the tools they need to manage their triggers.
It is common for those in recovery from addiction to wanting to put addiction and past behind them. Many individuals want to forget they ever had an addiction. However, it is crucial to be aware of history and what your triggers are. This is key in helping to avoid relapse.
Most Common Triggers
Depression is one of the most common triggers, and it often links to substance abuse. People suffering from this disorder frequently turn to drugs to feel better. They may be using drugs to cover up and forget the feelings they have. Unfortunately, substance abuse actually worsens depression over time. This can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of drug use and depression.
Other triggers include lack of sleep and exhaustion. Being exhausted can cause a person not to function as well as they usually do. Therefore, they may be less likely to use the tools they learned throughout their treatment. Another common trigger can be isolation. Having a positive and supportive group of family and friends is very important for recovery.
Also, since stress relief is a principal reason for using substances, any stressful life situation is likely to trigger. However, it is hard to exaggerate the association between stress and addiction relapse. Some other triggers include:
- Having drug withdrawals
- Seeing or being around people, places, or things that are a reminder of drugs and drug use
- Experiencing stressful life events
Stress and Relapse
Stress, as mentioned, is a very common trigger, and it affects people in many different ways. Not everybody copes with stress in the same ways. However, individuals who struggle with stress often turn to substance abuse as a way to help them cope. Stress that is caused by negative life events is associated with an increased risk of substance abuse. Some negative events that can occur in early life include loss of a parent, divorce, and conflict between parents, limited parental support, physical and emotional abuse, isolation, and a single-parent family structure.
Oftentimes, during a stressful situation or event, the urge to use drugs is increased. Drug use can also be a coping strategy to reduce tension, self-medicate, and to decrease the negative feelings associated with withdrawal. When an individual is experiencing a high level of emotional stress, it may result in them losing control over their impulses. High stress may also limit a person’s ability to stop inappropriate behaviors and to delay rewards.
It is important to use the tools and skills you learned in treatment to cope with stress. Evaluating what is causing stress and removing the stressors if possible is the ideal solution. Making changes to lifestyle, relationships, and priorities may help individuals to limit the amount of stress in their lives. By doing that, the likelihood of stress triggering a relapse will be decreased. Individuals can also learn new positive ways to successfully manage their stress. Some of these ways include:
- Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques
- Managing time effectively to avoid procrastination and panic
- Reaching out to family and friends
- Engaging in healthy behaviors such as exercising and eating well
Avoiding a Relapse
Relapse can be challenging to avoid, but it is preventable. Preventing relapse starts during an individual’s treatment. Behavioral therapy is the first line of defense. There are different types of behavioral therapy. These include:
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a method for patients to change their thinking and behavior towards drug abuse. This helps patients identify, avoid, and deal with the situations where they are most likely to use drugs.
- Contingency management relies on positive reinforcement. This can include giving the patient rewards or privileges for completing tasks such as attending counseling sessions, taking treatment medications properly, and staying drug-free.
- Coping skills training (CST) is another method to decrease how often and how severe relapse is.
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy monitors how much discomfort the patient has with their cravings and any negative influences. This decreases the risk of patient relapse.
Many relapse prevention techniques are taught during treatment to help patients prevent relapse. For example, teaching individuals to recognize the situations that may trigger a relapse and deal with those situations is one technique. Another is having individuals self-monitor their substance use and learn how to deal with the cravings they have. Regardless of the exact approach, relapse prevention techniques hinge on helping patients find a lifestyle balance in their lives.
Treatment and therapy teach individuals how to deal with a lapse. A lapse is another term for an incident of substance use. Feelings of guilt and self-blame can cause a person to turn a lapse into a relapse where they return to previous substance abuse levels. But a setback can also function as a learning tool to help individuals understand what caused it and to recommit to their recovery. Being able to identify and learning how to cope with triggers is vital to preventing relapse.
Helping a Loved One Avoid Relapse
Friends and family members can provide a network of support for an individual who struggles with addiction. It is essential to be aware of the obstacles and setbacks a friend or family member may encounter during their recovery.
The association between stress and addiction relapse is incredibly essential to understand. Having this information can help identify if a loved one has relapsed or maybe about to. Family and friends can offer support and understanding. Being available to talk with a loved one when they feel under pressure and at risk of relapse is essential.
If a loved one has relapsed, friends and family can reassure them that they have not failed. Reminding them that relapse is common and that recovery is a process that can help them take the steps they need. Please encourage them to think positively: a relapse can be a chance to learn more about themselves and their addiction. If it’s warranted, your loved one may even choose to return to intensive treatment for a while. Make sure you understand their needs.
Reaching Out for Help
After treatment, the process of overcoming addiction is not over. Learning to deal with stress and addiction relapse and other potential relapse triggers is difficult for patients after treatment. While it may be challenging, there is hope for staying in recovery and overcoming addiction.
If you have already gone through a treatment program and are struggling with relapse, there is help available. There are multiple options to suit your personal needs. Call 706-480-8733 and let us help find the right treatment program for you.
Written by Kailee Oliver