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Drug Relapse Prevention Strategies

by Landmark Recovery

May 18, 2018
Drug Relapse Prevention Strategies

Drug relapse prevention is incredibly important-Typically, when a recovering addict considers relapsing back into drug or alcohol use, there is a false assumption that they will be able to control their use this time. Just one drink. Just one hit. Just one good high for the month, for the week, or for the day. But think through the consequences. If you use again, it will only open the door to further usage. You’ll wake the next morning feeling guilty and disappointed in yourself, or maybe even depressed, which could cause you to use again.

One use usually leads to another, and while it may seem like you’re capable of controlling it this time, you’re thinking is flawed. Addicts cannot self-medicate. If you were capable of controlling your drug or alcohol use at any time, you wouldn’t be where you are right now. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. There is veritable science showing that some people are simply predisposed to being addicts.


Drug Relapse Prevention Methods


Call a Friend/Family Member

A man talking to a friend on the phone as a part of his relapse prevention

When you begin having the urge to use again, it’s important not to keep those feelings bottled up. You may feel like this is something you can handle on your own. You don’t want it to be someone else’s problem. You don’t want to admit that you’re feeling powerless. Maybe you feel that if you can keep it to yourself you can use in private and no one will know. This is all flawed reasoning. There is a reason most programs advocate for sponsors and close monitoring. This is because being open and talking through your feelings will help resolve those urges. Once they’re out in the open, they lose the power they held in your mind.


Occupy Your Mind

If you don’t have someone available to talk to, or perhaps you just feel restless, the next best thing is to get your body and mind focused on something else. If you can, go to a meeting, go for a walk, go to the gym, go for a hike. The important thing is to not let your urge to use again swallow up all the thoughts in your head. You need to channel the restless energy to use into an outlet that gives you a sense of purpose, or simply takes your mind in a different direction.


Wait 30 minutes

An individual using a timer to measure time

Maybe your urges hit you suddenly, and now they’re producing physical reactions in your body. Most drug cravings only last from 15-30 minutes, so if you’re experiencing the urge, just try to keep yourself busy or talk to someone for 30 minutes, until cravings abate. If you can keep your mind and body busy, it will quickly dissipate.


Look at the Big Picture

When you feel these urges, you should pause and look at the bigger picture. Urges and cravings to use again are often accompanied by feelings hopelessness or despair about maintaining sobriety forever. It’s like staring at an insurmountable wall and despairing over how you’re going to climb it. However, if you consider your future as one day at a time, you can see how scaling the wall is possible. One brick at a time. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to be strong forever. There will be moments that test you, like this one, but if you can extend it just one more day, you will have succeeded. Do your recovery in manageable, bite sized chunks.



An individual relaxing and enjoying a cup of coffee while they read

Relaxing your mind and body is an important aspect of the recovery process. When you’re tense, you’re more apt to fall into relapse. This is because you fall into scared methods of short sighted thinking. Some ways to get out of these pitfalls are to follow the tips in this list. Another way is to practice physical and mental exercises that take your mind of using again. Yoga, meditation, sports, expressive therapy, and other methods can help you relax.


Avoid Romanticizing Drug Use

As they say, “the grass is always greener”. When it comes to relapse, addicts sometimes do it because they’ve become bored of life without drugs, or they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the highs instead of the lows of their substance use. And while at the time it may have felt great, you’re conveniently forgetting the lows. Remember the come downs? The hangovers? The destruction to your life and relationships? When we want something, we often develop tunnel vision and forget about the consequences. Avoid thinking only about the few moments of fun you got from addiction. Keep in mind that if you don’t recover from substance abuse, consequences will begin to pile up. Forget about the few good times with addiction to eliminate the chance of misery knocking at your door later in life.


Learn Your Triggers

Do you sometimes find yourself saying “just one won’t hurt?” Well, that is a sign of weakness during recovery. You have to convince yourself that addiction is dangerous, and stay away from things which might tempt you to get back to the old ways. Don’t think that just because you are from rehab that one drink won’t have the same issues this time. The trick is to the triggers that lead to relapse so that you are armed with knowledge and recovery skills that you can use when temptation to use drugs or alcohol strikes.

If you find yourself falling into old patterns and ways of thinking, you may become triggered by old sources of anxiety and stress. Through therapy and structured counseling, you can hopefully learn the latent emotional triggers that make you want to use. For most of us, stress, anger, and sadness are all common reasons. But the things that cause these feelings are different for us all. It’s up to you to recognize why these things trigger you, and work to reduce their appearance in your life, or figure out if your way of thinking is unhealthy.


Next Steps

As our understanding of addiction evolves, we will continue to figure out the preventative measures for relapsing. Addiction is characterized by compulsive behavior, so cognitive science and research into the mind are vital to expanding our understanding and treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. Read about more drug relapse prevention tips at the Landmark blog, and check out heroin addiction poems. Working with a drug rehab facility, you can maximize your chances of successful recovery.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.