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Relapse is when a person goes back to a certain behavior after being away from it from a period of time.  The term relapse means different things to different people depending on what type of recovery method they are using.

Relapse when addiction is explained as a disease is similar to the relapse rates of other chronic illnesses.  However, this could also be a disadvantage.  For example, when an addict believes that he or she has a disease; if they indulge in their drug of choice or alcohol (relapse) they will then blame the disease.  In 12-step recovery programs they are taught that one drink is too much so many times this can result in an all or nothing lifestyle for an addict.  For example, if an alcoholic slips up and has 1 drink they are more likely to give up on themselves and feel powerless and return to their alcoholic lifestyle.

It is important for mental health professionals to be aware of and involved in relapse prevention for many reasons.  Mental health professionals are capable of helping patients change their lifestyles, relationships, and to support them during such drastic changes.  The mental health providers are the ones who write and plan the aftercare treatment so in a way it is their responsibility to be involved so that they prevent slips from escalating to relapse.

There is more to it!

Recovering from addiction is a bio-psychosocial process. It was earlier understood that abstinence from alcohol or the drug that lead to treatment was enough and as long as the user didn’t return to that specific substance they weren’t relapsing. Relapse prevention requires so much more.

Relapse prevention requires a complete change in lifestyle starting with the user’s health. This includes abstinence from any mood altering substance, healthy eating, and plenty of exercise. If a person stops using alcohol but eats donuts and soda every day they will endure the same, if not more physical pain and suffering.

Psychologically, anyone in treatment needs to be assessed to make sure their suffering is not caused by something else. For example, if the underlying problem is depression and that is causing a person to abuse a substance, it is important for the individual to not only get help for substance abuse but to also treat the depression at the same time. Dual-diagnosis can be hard to spot.

Last, people in recovery need to have the social support they deserve. Without healthy social relationships recovery would be nearly impossible. People in recovery need to change their living situations and friendships if they feel that they will be subjected to pressure from their relationships. Individuals in recovery should be educated in what type of resources is available and how they can gain support through self-help groups and other non-traditional ways.