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Relapse Prevention


Relapse occurs when a recovering addict begins using harmful substances again after a period of abstinence. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 40 to 60 percent of addicts will suffer a relapse within the first year of completing rehabilitation treatment. Many addiction specialists consider relapse to be an inevitable part of drug and alcohol treatment that most addicts will encounter during their recovery. Relapse prevention in Iowa is a form of aftercare designed to follow on from rehabilitation treatment and provide ongoing support once addicts reenter society. During relapse prevention sessions, addicts are taught to recognize the three stages of relapse and to identify any potential triggers and warning signs that could lead to them using harmful substances. Addiction is a chronic disease that cannot be cured indefinitely, but proper management and ongoing support can help addicts live a healthy and productive life free from the grip of addiction.

Three Stages of Relapse

Relapse prevention programs in Iowa often teach addicts to be aware of the three stages that each person will pass through before relapsing.

  • Emotional Relapse – Emotional relapse occurs when the person begins to feel overwhelmed by strong emotions such as stress, sadness, boredom, depression or frustration. This stage does not actually involve any thoughts about using addictive substances but is instead characterized by a sense of losing control or being unable to cope. A person in this stage of relapse may start to withdraw from friends and family and lose interest in work, hobbies and socializing.
  • Mental Relapse – Mental relapse involves thinking about using addictive substances and trying to justify reasons why it might be OK to do so. Addicts may start visiting friends that still use or frequenting old hangouts associated with drug use. Many people in this stage also think about how they will relapse and begin making plans to do so.
  • Physical Relapse – Once a person resumes using harmful substances on a regular basis, this is considered a relapse. An isolated incident where an addict uses drugs or alcohol just once is not considered to be a relapse. People in this stage often have to attend a rehabilitation center again for treatment in order to get the addiction back under control.

Potential Relapse Triggers

Relapse can happen for many different reasons, but there are a number of known ‘triggers’ that can increase the chance of relapse.

  • Bereavement – Losing a spouse, family member or close friend causes strong emotions and feelings of grief that many people struggle to deal with. Addicts in recovery may turn to addictive substances in an effort to block out the pain that they are feeling.
  • Financial Problems – Depressants such as heroin and alcohol are often used as an escape from reality. Owing large amounts of money and feeling pressured from banks or credit lenders can be extremely stressful, and addictive substances provide a means of escaping.
  • Health Problems – Living with chronic pain, mental illness or decreased mobility is an isolating and lonely experience, and many people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb themselves to their situation.
  • Change In Circumstances – Divorce, separation, of the loss of a job can also trigger a relapse if the person does not have adequate support to help him deal with stress and anxiety.

Boredom can also be a trigger for relapse, and relapse prevention is designed to encourage addicts to actively seek out healthy ways to deal with their cravings. Local support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are excellent resources for addicts to access help and support from others in recovery and even offer their own advice to fellow members. Being part of a community is a great way for addicts to increase self-confidence and channel their energy into positive projects. If you would like more information on relapse prevention programs in Iowa, then contact your nearest drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for details of meetings in your area.