It can be very tempting for someone who has just completed rehab treatment to want to turn their back on that chapter of their life completely. Feeling emboldened by their newfound sobriety, they may feel that their addiction problems are a thing of the past. What they need to keep in mind, however, is that they are at risk of a relapse and must take positive actions to avoid this from happening, such as aftercare programs to assist with relapse prevention.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rates for people who have been treated for substance addiction range between 40 and 60%. While these rates are alarming, they are comparable to relapse rates in people who have been treated for other chronic illnesses such as type-1 diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. And, in a similar way that relapse in the case of those other chronic illnesses is most often due to non-adherence to medication and necessary lifestyle changes, the relapse in a recovering addict can be the result of straying from the focus and motivation they gained during their treatment.
The greatest risk for relapse is in the period immediately following addiction treatment. The first 30 to 90 days following discharge often finds recovering addicts at their most vulnerable. But they remain vulnerable for years after that. It is estimated that recovery in most people is not fully stabilized until 4 to 5 years of sustained sobriety. This is the timeframe where the risk of relapse falls below 15%.
What Is Aftercare?
Recognized as a cornerstone to long-term recovery, aftercare helps recovering addicts to develop the necessary strategies and skills to resume their normal life without drugs or alcohol and prevent relapse. Aftercare programs can include 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or other support groups, or counseling sessions at the rehab clinic.
How Aftercare Programs Help With Relapse:
1. Identifies Substance Abuse Triggers and Finding Coping Mechanisms
As patients return to their normal daily activities, they will undoubtedly come across events, situations, places, and people that trigger temptation. Some of them may be things they can avoid in the future, but probably not all of them. Through their aftercare program, they can learn skills and coping mechanisms to successfully deal with those encounters.
2. Teaches Warning Signs of a Possible Impending Relapse
The fragile state of a recovering addict makes it such that a possible relapse could occur at any time. Fortunately, there are ways to detect the early warning signs. These signs can include having a sense of being deprived, resentful or disappointed; having thoughts that engaging in old behavior to make them feel better; feelings of doubt in their ability to remain sober; and being drawn to situations or places where they may be tempted.
Not only will they learn about these and other warning signs through their aftercare program, other members of the program may alert them to some red flags in their thoughts, feelings or behavior that they were not previously aware of.
3. Offers Support and Accountability to Keep On Track
One shouldn’t underestimate the bonds created among recovering addicts in an aftercare program. Members act as caring sounding boards for each other and a valuable resource especially during moments when one might be struggling. If members feel that they are in imminent danger of a relapse, they can turn to their sponsor or another member for support and assistance.
In the same way of taking one’s blood pressure medication as prescribed and adhering to a healthy diet can help hypertension relapse prevention, participating in aftercare programs following drug rehab treatment will help a patient’s chances of relapse prevention.