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Addiction Recovery: Coping with Relapse

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is called a substance use disorder. It changes the brain in ways that continue long after the problem use ends. This is why people with a substance use disorder are at risk for relapse. This is true even after long periods of staying drug- or alcohol-free. Like other chronic diseases, the disorder needs to be managed daily. This can help prevent, or manage, a relapse.

You will need ongoing treatment and support. Your best chance for long-term recovery will likely be a mix of medicines and behavioral therapy. Other tips include:

Stick with your treatment plan.It may seem like you've fully recovered. But, recovery is a lifelong journey and doesn't happen quickly for many people. You may feel you don't need to keep taking steps to stay drug- or alcohol-free. But your chances of staying sober are much higher if you continue treatment after you recover. If you're thinking about stopping treatment, talk with a professional first.

If you're thinking about using again, get help first.Let your counselor, support group, or healthcare provider know you want to use again. They can offer crisis support and help you stay drug- or alcohol-free.

Get help right away if you use the drug again.If you start using again, talk with your healthcare provider or someone else right away.

Have loved ones be part of your recovery. One type of therapy is called community reinforcement and family training. This focuses on counseling and training for your family. The therapist teaches your family how to help motivate you to get treatment. This therapy also helps the family spot situations that may lead you to drink or use drugs. Other family-oriented recovery programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, can be found nationwide.

Learn healthy ways to cope with stress, anger, boredom, or other triggers. Behavioral therapy can help you learn ways for coping with drug or alcohol cravings. It can also teach you ways to stay away from drugs and prevent relapse. And it can help you deal with relapse if it occurs. 

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2022
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