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How to Prevent Opioid Relapse

by Nick

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40% to 60% of people with addiction experience relapse. This rate resembles the relapse risk for patients with conditions like type 1 diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Relapse does not indicate a moral failure on the patient’s part — it just means that they need an adjustment in treatment. By taking a proactive approach to treatment, patients and doctors can work together to reduce and manage relapse.

How Does Relapse Happen?

Drug addiction is a chronic disease. As a result, relapse can happen for a variety of physiological, emotional and situational reasons. The factors that contribute to relapse include:

  • Need for treatment adjustment: Opioid addiction requires ongoing treatment adjustments or changes in medication dose, especially at the start of recovery. A treatment that needs changes may not provide the withdrawal relief or coping skills the patient needs to manage their recovery.
  • Emotional stress: In times of extreme stress, it can become more difficult to control withdrawal symptoms and triggers. These situations can result in relapse because the patient needs assistance in developing coping skills.
  • Lack of support: When a patient doesn’t have the medical or social support they need, they can have a higher risk of relapse. Isolation can increase the temptation and opportunities to use opioids.
  • Triggers for use: Certain people, things and situations can trigger the urge to use opioids for a patient. If a patient doesn’t know how to handle these triggers, they have a higher risk of relapse.

Ways to Prevent Opioid Relapse During Treatment

Relapse can happen during treatment as part of the recovery process. Preventing and controlling relapse during opioid addiction treatment requires steps such as:

  • Communication between doctor and patient: Quality communication between the patient and doctor enables more flexible treatment. It also helps the patient’s treatment team notice any changes in the patient’s needs as they recover.
  • An appropriate treatment strategy: Different treatments work best for different patients. When relapse happens, the patient may need another approach from their care team.
  • Support from a counselor: The field of addiction medicine considers the combination of counseling and medication a best practice because the patient learns coping skills in therapy. Counselors help patients identify and plan for triggers to reduce their risk of relapse.

Tips for Limiting an Opioid Relapse During Maintenance

After a patient reaches a stable point in their recovery, they can still experience relapse. The strategies for preventing relapse after opioid addiction treatment include:

  • Developing a relapse prevention plan: Creating a relapse prevention plan both during and after treatment can make it easier for a patient to handle a relapse. These plans include coping strategies and who to contact if relapse happens.
  • Building a support system: Having people to reach out to when recovery becomes difficult can help a patient prevent relapse.
  • Involvement in community recovery groups: Activities with other people in recovery, such as community groups, support patients after they finish treatment.

Learn More About Opioid Addiction Recovery

Health Care Resource Centers (HCRC) helps patients in New England recover from opioid addiction. Discover more about the recovery process or our services by contacting our staff today.

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