No one in opioid addiction recovery wants to think about potential relapse. Still, relapse is considered part of the recovery journey instead of a failure – more of a road bump than a stop sign. Substance use disorder is a chronic illness, and just like others, relapse or remission can happen at any time. However, relapse can be devastating for those grappling with addiction and can lead to a spiral of setbacks if reinforcements aren’t in place.
People in recovery can feel immense pressure to succeed and rebuild once they’ve begun treatment. Because addiction can cause people to prioritize substance use by rewiring the reward pathway of the brain, past decisions and actions can weigh heavily on their conscience as they seek forgiveness and understanding from loved ones they’ve hurt. On top of these realities also lies the stigma of addiction itself, causing people to feel judged although they’ve taken steps to treat their illness.
Without a solid support system, these stresses can become overwhelming for some and covertly engage the process of relapse. Relapse often occurs in stages: emotional, mental, and physical. During the emotional phase, the patient feels they are simply “going through the motions” of their sobriety. While they haven’t used any substances yet, they’ve emotionally checked out their motivation to participate in their daily routines that promote recovery. Mental relapse is when thoughts of misusing substances often cross the mind, seeking excuses to use, plans to hide misuse, or glorifying past experiences of misuse. If no preventative measures are taken and signals are ignored, these two phases can quickly lead to physical relapse where a patient begins to misuse substances again.
The work towards relapse prevention through substance use counseling during MAT outpatient treatment provides patients with tools and coping mechanisms to withstand triggers while medication helps ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Substance use counselors help patients understand that relapse is considered part of the recovery journey, and the occurrence of relapse doesn’t constitute a failure or reason to give up on the treatment process. They also encourage patients to be aware of the stages of relapse and communicate with them if they feel they might be at risk. A relapse prevention plan can be drafted up, often on paper, with a step-by-step guide and reminders for patients if they feel they are losing control of their treatment progress. This plan includes phone numbers, resources, exercise reminders to help them overcome urges and negative emotional cycles, and much more.
Having a set relapse plan in place in case of physical relapse is essential for patients. It can mean the difference between a “slip up” relapse and a long spiraling relapse that potentially lasts for weeks or even months. Every patient’s relapse plan will be different, but the most common factors include:
Emergency contact person to alert, including phone numbers, addresses, etc.
Step-by-step plan for contacting medical provider ASAP
A plan for detox treatment or remedial medication post-relapse
Naloxone or overdose reversal medication
Middlesex Recovery offers comprehensive, evidence-based outpatient treatment for substance use disorder. Specialized and compassionate medical providers and nursing staff work hard to provide optimal care for enrolled patients in a private office setting, making addiction recovery convenient, discreet, and accessible for many different lifestyles. Patients at Middlesex Recovery have access to substance use counseling, including individual and group counseling, where relapse prevention is discussed in depth to increase everyone’s chances of successful and long-lasting recovery from addiction. To learn more about our treatment services, find your nearest location and message or call us today.