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Heroin Relapse Prevention
Heroin addiction is one of the fastest growing drug addictions in the United States today.
This statistic includes not only new heroin addicts but also those who relapse back into addiction after heroin addiction treatment. Relapse prevention is one way to help those that stop their heroin addiction from going back.
What Exactly is Relapse?
Relapse is a reoccurrence of drug use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug abuse is a chronic disease. This means that it stays with you for a long time, if not forever. If you stop using and start using again, you will experience:
- A strong craving for the drug.
- The need or desire to take more and more of it.
- The increased need for treatment to stop using again.
Part of the problem with relapse is that after you go through detoxification and treatment for a drug addiction, you are susceptible to drug related overdose.
Relapse related overdose happens when a person finishes rehab and tolerance for the drug decreases. With a decreased tolerance, your body cannot handle as much heroin as it did before the treatment.
If you take the same amount that you did before heroin detox, you run the risk of overdosing on it. This happens despite any previous tolerance you might have had.
What is Relapse Prevention?
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, relapse prevention is an approach that focuses on the maintenance stage of addiction treatment. Relapse prevention has a few main goals. These goals are:
- To prevent an initial relapse back into addictive behavior.
- To prevent subsequent relapses that may occur resulting in a full relapse.
- To help those that relapse recognize the need for treatment before the relapse becomes full addiction again.
- To help those who are newly recovering and in danger of a relapse.
Each of these goals help to define what relapse prevention is and who needs it. The overall aim of relapse prevention is to stop any chance of relapse after treatment. This is unfortunately, very difficult.
Relapse is a part of addiction. Since addiction is a chronic disease, there is about the same chance of a drug relapse as there is any other chronic illness.
Problems Addressed in Relapse Prevention
Relapse prevention addresses several key problems. These problems are common occurrences with drug or alcohol dependence. These effects are problems that happen during drug use but are preventable with both drug treatment and helping to prevent relapse.
According to the University of Washington, some of these effects are:
- Liver and other diseases.
- Metabolic dysfunction including slowing of the metabolism.
- Cravings and preoccupation with addiction.
- Family dysfunction.
- Social issues such as loss of job or expulsion from school.
- Cognitive dysfunction.
- Criminal behavior.
Each of these issues often arises when a heroin user relapses. When a person relapses, the chance of developing one of these side effects increases.
Relapse Prevention Strategies
Relapse prevention relies on several strategies to help you. These strategies are what you learn during and after your heroin addiction treatment. These strategies are part of three different types of approaches. These approaches are:
- Social support approach.
- Lifestyle changes approach.
- Cognitive/behavioral approach.
Each of these approaches teaches valuable lessons for relapse prevention.
Some of the strategies or lessons that relapse prevention teaches are:.
- Learning to accept your thoughts and feelings.
- Living with mindfulness of both yourself and your addiction.
- Understanding and controlling your triggers.
- Learning to control the urge to use heroin even when presented with it.
- Reviewing your activities and how much heroin can cost you.
- Goal setting and fulfillment.
- Stress management techniques.
- Knowing when you need help and where to get it.
Each of these strategies are taught in any of the drug treatment programs available. Most of the strategies are combined with other forms of therapy including medication, individual, and group therapy approaches.
Methods of Relapse Prevention
There are several methods of relapse prevention. These are methods that therapists, counselors, and treatment centers use to make sure that relapse does not happen. Some of these methods include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – a key element in any treatment program.
- Aftercare and sober housing – provides safe places to go and continuing treatment.
- Continuing treatment after detoxification – full treatment as opposed to just ridding yourself of the heroin.
- Life skills training – courses and other life skills building activities.
- Trigger recognition and defense training – teaching you how to deal with triggers such as stress.
There are many other relapse prevention methods. The Most useful depends on your addiction level and individual needs, wants, and goals. You should choose the method of relapse prevention that best suits you.
All of these are designed to help you recover from your addiction and prevent relapse. Although many of these promote lifestyle changes, they might not be enough to prevent relapse alone.
There are drugs currently available as both relapse prevention measures and deterrents. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, these drugs are:
All of these medications except for naltrexone are maintenance or withdrawal treatments. Naltrexone is a bit different. Naltrexone blocks the effects of opiates but does not treat pain or withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone is a drug that is often added to therapy to prevent relapse during treatment.
Where is Heroin Relapse Prevention Available?
Relapse prevention is an important part of heroin addiction treatment. It is available at the majority of treatment centers. You can find it as a supportive program and as part of the body of the treatment.