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  • Guide To Preventing Relapse

Guide To Preventing Relapse

Mental Well-being Is Something You Can't Ignore

Human beings are made in a manner that continually strives to find comfort. The comfort is in the form of pleasure that one enjoys doing, either part-time or when doing their jobs. By doing this routine for years, the brains are adjusted, triggering the feel-good hormones. This is the same case that happens with the use of drugs. When we use either one or multiple substances over time, our bodies are used to these drugs hence becoming reliant, and even after an attempt to stop the use, we find ourselves craving for these substances. When a person gives in and starts using these substances after they have recovered from the addiction, we consider them to have a relapse.

India is among the most significant economy which has a big population. This has come with its share of challenges. In terms of substances abuse is among countries that are struggling to fight it. According to the National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India, 14.6% of its citizens, ranging from 10 to 75 years of age, use alcohol. In every woman that uses alcohol, 17 men use it. This translates to 27.3% in men and 1.6% in women.  

Cannabis and Opioids are used by 2.0% and 2.1% respectively. The states that have the highest prevalence are Sikkim, Arunachal, Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram. Lastly, 1.08% uses sedatives and inhalants (Ambekar et al., 2019).

Relapse can be considered to be a resumption of drug abuse after there had been an attempt to stop the use or abstinence of this substance. In other words, it is worsening of an improved clinical condition that had taken a positive turn.  For example, when a person starts to use a drug after being in a rehabilitation facility for quite some time, we consider them to be experiencing a relapse. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of people seeking recovery from drug abuse find themselves in relapse. It is important to note that relapse is expected in the recovery process.

Although relapse can be a recovery process for the addict, sometimes it can be a hazardous sign as it can also lead to overdose. If a person decides to go back to substance abuse after a certain period of normalcy, the body typically has a reduced tolerance to the substance being abused. During this relapse period, the body does not need much quantity of substance as it needed before the recovery (Martinelli et al., 2020). As a result, the addict may not be able to control the amount taking, thus can take an overdose. Overdose, on the other hand, can lead to uncomfortable feelings, life-threatening situations, or death to some extent.

Relapse Stages

Relapse happens in stages thus can be said to be a process, not an event. For prevention purposes, it is vital to understand the stages that a person undergoes to experience relapse. For the physical relapse to manifest, it means it had started to happen in the emotional and mental for weeks or months (Bowen et al., 2021). Thus, we have three stages that include; emotional, mental, and physical relapse.

The emotional part of relapse happens when the behaviors and the emotions set an individual up for a probable relapse (Erdogan et al., 2021). At this stage, the individual is not thinking of abusing the substances. Signs experienced in this stage include; anxiety, having mood swings, being defensive, a feeling of isolation, anger, being intolerant to other or something, poor eating habits, poor sleeping habits, among others.

A mental relapse happens when an individual starts to experience conflict in his mind, where he feels using substances and another feeling of not using. This is the stage when an individual is just thinking of using but has not actualized the use. Signs experienced in this stage include; fantasizing about using substances, thinking about the people, places, and things that you used to do together, spending time with old buddies, thinking and planning your relapse. At this stage, the urge is powerful, thus hard to make the right decisions.

The last stage is physical relapse. This stage happens when an individual fails to seek help while in emotional and mental stages (Farmawati, 2019). In this stage, the individual starts to abuse substances and associating with the dealers. At this point, it is tough to stop the process of relapse unless by using brute force to abstain.

Relapse prevention strategies


HALT is an acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. When individuals start to experience craving for the substance formerly abused, they need to ask themselves if they experience any of the HALT elements. HALT are common triggers for those recovering from substances abuse (Satapathy et al., 2020). Individuals need to regularly check if they are experiencing these elements to avoid getting back to relapse.


Insomnia and fatigue can be another significant causes of relapse when recovering from addiction (Geoffroy et al., 2020). Insomnia can be solved by having routine physical exercise, taking a balanced diet, and having a structured sleep. Productive physical activities, structured sleep, and a balanced diet that is scheduled can help the body to have a sound sleep, thus reducing the chances of relapse.

Purposeful meditation.

Meditation is a process that helps a recovering individual to be self-aware, thus can help them to avoid some of the triggers that can result in relapse. According to a study by NCBI, there is a significant number of people who use the program of mindfulness meditation that recover compared to those who do not use this technique (Korecki et al., 2020). With mindfulness meditation, one remains sober, experiencing less cravings, and are self-aware. The hallmark of this technique is acceptance, meditation, being prayerful, and letting go.

Master the triggers

Mastering the triggers can be another technique that can help to avoid relapse (Somohano et al., 2019). As pointed earlier, in the stages of relapse, triggers can be experienced due to internal factors such as anxiety, anger, stress, or it can be externally reminders such as people, places, and things. Thus, making a list of these triggers can help a recovering person to be more aware hence reducing the chances of relapse.

Find a support group.

A recovering person needs to get a social support group that can provide support, can educate peers, and lead to accountability to individuals who are on a recovery path. Such groups help reduce the likelihood of relapse because loneliness and isolation have been overcome (Kakunje et al., 2020).  

Set a goal and reward yourself

The path to drug abuse recovery is not an easy journey, and it requires a lot of discipline and patience (Kakunje et al., 2020). An individual should set a goal on a short and long-term basis to be off drugs. For every goal that is achieved, it is essential to have a reward to celebrate the target achieved. For instance, you can decide to take a trip to a trip to a unique place after going for a month or two of being sober.

Distract yourself

A recovering individual can focus on health programs. Since cravings last for about 15 to 30 minutes, one can start running, playing an instrument, watching a movie, or playing with your pet ( Peabody, 2019). By doing so, those cravings will be fought off, and it will become hard for an individual to get into relapse.


Recovering from substance abuse is not an easy process, but through discipline and persistence, it is possible. An individual recovering from relapse should be aware of the stages of relapse, which are emotional, mental, and physical, and avoid them if possible. Some of the prevention mechanisms include self-distraction, goal setting, and rewards, support groups, mastering the triggers, among others.

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