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How to Deal with Relapse Triggers

Addiction is a disease of the brain, one that takes over a person’s self control and replaces it with compulsive cravings. And like other chronic diseases, addiction dejectedly bears the burden of high relapse rates. It’s been found that two-thirds of drug and alcohol users who have attempted recovery have also regressed to a brief period of substance abuse. This, however, does not mean that recovery is not possible. Rather, it means that addiction should be treated with ongoing and active treatment plans.

Addiction thrives in an individual’s brain, impairing the parts most dedicated to learning, memory, and decision-making. With prolonged use, drugs of abuse physically change a person’s brain structure, embedding in them a compulsive drive to persistently use drugs. Substance use has thus been deemed a “learned” disease, creating powerful, emotional memories of drug taking in an individual. Even after extended periods of sobriety, the brain can still react to certain cues, or triggers, that ultimately stir the beginning of a relapse. They can be in the people a person once used with, the places where they used, or even the music they listened to while using. Any of these can affect a person’s psychology, ultimately stirring a conditioned craving within and causing a relapse.

drug and alcohol relapse triggersIt is not uncommon for those in recovery to go through various emotions upon graduation from their treatment program. A successful drug treatment program, though, will prepare a person for this rollercoaster of emotions. Many times, the cause of relapse rests in certain situations where recovering patients feel overwhelmed by their emotions—they are out on their own, they have to make safe and sound decisions, they have to rebuild relationships and establish new connections. For some, it can be a stressful experience. Any argument with a loved one, or an emotional crisis, can lead a person right back into drug use. It is these emotions that had possibly led him to use drugs in the first place. 

In a recent CASA survey, high school students who had used marijuana were found almost twice as likely than students who never used to feel very sad or depressed, alone, and isolated. That is why, from the beginning of treatment, our Turnbridge team encourages each young man to build a solid support system and sober network, so that they will have a consistent shoulder to lean on, or a trusted friend to reach out to, at any point of feeling down. If you or a loved one is starting to experience emotions all over the map, is increasingly easily angered, or lonely, seek out an addiction treatment professional immediately. This can be the beginning of a drug or alcohol relapse—and it can be stopped. 
Relapse triggers can also stem from certain environments following treatment. Upon leaving a rehabilitation center, many recovering addicts choose to go back home. Yet this is not always the best path to follow. Returning home after treatment can bring a person back to where they were when they first started using. They may return to previous haunts, local bars, or an old buddy’s house where they used to get high. There, they may see a bottle of whiskey, or smell someone smoking marijuana, setting them off right back into addiction. Because addiction is such a learned disease, cravings can evolve from any remembered sights, sounds, and smells of a recovering addict’s past. These can be some of the most irresistible relapse triggers of all. 

Just like hanging out in old stomping grounds can lead to a relapse, so can old friends. Upon leaving treatment, it can be tempting to call up old friends and glamorize the “good” old days. Yet this can stir about various social pressures and a persistent feeling of wanting to fit in again. Our philosophy at Turnbridge rests in the notion that recovery treatment centers are not meant to send a patient back to his old life, but rather, to help him build a new and better one, a life in which he can live a healthy, sober lifestyle free from temptations. This, of course, does not mean that everyone who graduates from treatment should not return home. Rather, we believe that each individual should live the life he has dreamed of, a life that wholly supports his desire to stay sober. It is this rebuilding, this rebirth, that truly gives way to recovery.

Outside influences and emotional triggers play a major part in the addiction cycle. A person may start using again for the very same reasons he started using initially—for emotional relief, self-medication, or simply to be a part of a social scene again. What ever it is that led the user to abuse drugs in the first place can again trigger him back into the same hole.

A huge part of conquering relapse triggers is maintaining a clear mind and good health—emotionally and physically. Turnbridge recommends that those recovering adhere to a treatment plan that makes health a priority: sleeping enough at night, avoiding foods with stimulants, and exercising regularly are just some examples of coping mechanisms that can greatly lessen a person’s chances of relapse.  

Successful recovery from addiction lays in commitment to an extended treatment plan. Turnbridge can help get you or a loved one started. Our staff, facilities, and rehabilitation programs truly prepare patients for the possibility of relapse by helping them understand and avoid any potentially dangerous triggers. Call us today at 877-581-1793 to learn how to recognize these triggers, handle cravings, and to begin developing contingency plans for any future risks. We believe a successful recovery is in your future.