Relapse prevention training provides a multidimensional approach to abstinence and helps to further reduce the likelihood of substance abuse relapse. The methods used usually include pharmacotherapy, cognitive behavioral techniques, contingency planning and education. The most important factor in preventing relapse is to identify the needs that were previously met by use of the substance and to develop skills to meet those needs in a healthier way.
Using Medication to Prevent Relapse
There are a multitude of medications that can be used to stabilize an addict. They can also be used to reduce the initial drug use and prevent further abuse of the drug. There are some patients who initially reject the medications and feel they are contradictory to their recovery efforts, sort of like trading one addiction for another. This however is not the case and medication is a vital part of many individual’s recovery. Medications have been proven to be very useful in reducing many of the adverse side effects associated with withdrawal such as paranoia, anxiety and intense cravings. They can also help to minimize the risk of relapse and are needed to prevent death in some cases. Some individuals suffer from permanent changes to the brain and nervous system that have resulted from long term substance abuse. Medication is needed to normalize those changes and help the individual feel well again.
Using Behavioral Approaches to Prevent Relapse
There are various behavioral techniques used for treating and preventing relapse. Many of them focus on what triggers the individual to use and in turn the consequences of the drug abuse behavior. Cognitive behavioral approaches use a form of conditioning through positive and negative reinforcement in hopes to alter the thoughts and emotions associated with the drug abuse behavior. The main component of this approach is exposure, during which the abstinent individual is repeatedly exposed to triggers without exposure to the substance in hopes that the substance will gradually lose the ability to induce drug-seeking behavior.
Relapse preventing training prepares addicts to anticipate relapse by recognizing and alternatively coping with the situations that once drove them to use. Immediate determinants are the environmental factors and emotional situations that threaten relapse. These include high-risk situations that threaten an individual’s sense of self control, along with their newly learned coping strategies and expected outcomes. There are also less obvious factors that influence relapse. An individual’s lifestyle such as stress levels, urges and cravings can all threaten someone’s sobriety. Studies have proven that relapse prevention training is not only successful in reducing the chance of relapsing back into past substance abuse behavior but also at improving psychosocial skills.