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Recovering from Addiction: Coping with Relapse

Drug and alcohol abuse changes the brain in ways that continue long after the abuse ends. Because of this, people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are at risk for relapse. This is true even after long periods of staying drug- or alcohol-free. Like other chronic diseases, substance addiction needs to be managed daily. A person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol needs a plan to help prevent, or manage, a relapse.

You will need ongoing treatment and support. Your best chance for long-term recovery will likely be a combination of medicines and behavioral therapy. Other tips include:

Stick with your treatment plan. It may seem like you've recovered and you don't need to keep taking steps to stay drug- or alcohol-free. Your chances of staying sober are much higher if you continue treatment after you recover.

Get help immediately if you use the drug again. If you start using again, talk with your health care provider or someone else who can help you right away.

Get loved ones involved in your recovery. A form of therapy called community reinforcement and family training focuses on counseling and training for your family. The therapist teaches your family how to help motivate you to seek treatment. This therapy also helps the family recognize situations that may lead you to drink or use drugs. Other family oriented recovery programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, are available in communities nationwide.

Learn healthy ways to cope with stress, anger, boredom, or other triggers. Behavioral therapy can help you learn ways for coping with drug or alcohol cravings. It can also teach you ways to avoid drugs and prevent relapse, and help you deal with relapse if it occurs. 


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