Why Relapse Prevention Education is Vital for Opioid Recovery

MastHead Outline
August 21, 2019

Taking the first vital step to treat substance use disorder is often a great challenge but ultimately life-changing for those who achieve recovery. The journey towards long-term sobriety offers options like medication-assisted treatment, substance use counseling, peer support, and very essential relapse prevention strategies. With such integrative programs available, there has never been a better time for those with addiction to seek help from compassionate clinical professionals that offer FDA-approved medications to help treat opioid addiction and help patients regain control over their lives.

It’s important to note that despite the abundance of support, those in treatment or recovery for opioid use disorder are at risk of particularly high rates of relapse. While relapse is widely regarded as part of the recovery process, it doesn’t mean that it’s inevitable and unavoidable. Relapse prevention education is helping teach those with substance use disorder, as well as their friends and loved ones, ways to help prevent it and make the recovery process smoother using proven methods and coping mechanisms from experienced and trusted experts.

Relapse Rates

Typically, most relapse rates for addiction hover between 40%-60%, much like any chronic illnesses. However, due to the addictive nature of opioids, those in recovery for opioid addiction can be faced with relapse rates as high as 60%-90%, even following treatment. People entering recovery may feel powerless when faced with these statistics. , The threat of relapse will be a lifelong challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence for individuals who actively work their chosen program of recovery.

Due to these dauntingly high figures, it’s vital for those entering treatment to choose programs that focus heavily on relapse prevention. Entering detox or a MAT program is simply not enough to keep the possibility of using again at bay in the future. The specific strategies used to help people overcome the risk of relapse can help patients stay in recovery for the long-term without facing the destructive setbacks that relapse can bring about.

Relapse Prevention Strategies   

Many entering MAT programs are able to deal with painful withdrawal symptoms and cravings by taking their medications; however, addiction is not purely a chemical dependency. There are psychological, emotional, and behavioral aspects of the disease that make relapse so prevalent even when the physical withdrawals are being managed. Patients in MAT receive drug use counseling which can help address the full scope of their needs, sometimes being referred to further therapy for skill-building to help them cope with their substance use disorder and potential underlying trauma or issues to may have led them to drug use.

Along with these resources, relapse prevention education should touch on key factors that help patients:

  • Cope with stressful situations beyond the scope of their recovery
  • Handle their emotions without seeking destructive behavior
  • Defeat cravings by identifying needs
  • Learn to identify triggers and overcome them
  • Explore their emotions in a productive way
  • Manage social situations and pressures
  • Develop problem-solving skills
  • Built a healthy support system

One study followed patients receiving comprehensive addiction treatment that allows them to address issues beyond the chemical dependency of drugs and shows that patients who received both MAT and cognitive-behavioral therapy have better long-term outcomes after a 33-year follow-up. As well as an international study that showed only 36.4% of patients experienced relapse after receiving RP (relapse prevention) along with MAT, while 63.6% saw relapse with using MAT alone. These statistics align with a Yale study that also published findings that suggest patients on MAT benefit greatly from coinciding counseling and therapy to address behavioral and cognitive issues. These studies further prove that the disease of addiction can be treated with medication, but really benefits from a multi-dimensional approach. Long-term recovery includes treatment for the patient’s mental health and wellbeing once they are stabilized from withdrawal and are able to participate in learning positive, productive coping mechanisms.

Effective Comprehensive Treatment

Once a patient is able to address their addiction chemically with MAT and get cravings and debilitating withdrawal symptoms under control, they are better prepared to focus on other aspects of their addiction, starting from any trauma or personal issues that may have led to their initial drug use. This kind of therapy is useful in helping find a deeper understanding of potential triggers they may experience as they work further into their recovery. These studies prove that beating addiction is not simply a matter of detoxing the body of the drug and using sheer willpower to resist temptation. While programs that use this methodology have been around for quite some time, research is showing that more cognitive behavioral therapy is needed to help patients succeed long-term without having to focus purely on their recovery every minute of the day. These patients are given an opportunity to take their life back.

Many patients are successful with their MAT program along with counseling and further therapy and are able to move forward and live fulfilling and productive lives, despite the high rates of relapse that statistically stand against them. Those who are given access to, and invest time in, relapse prevention techniques are able to prepare themselves for future situations where they may find themselves on the brink of relapse, but because they’ve built up coping mechanisms, they are able to bypass those hurdles without compromising all of their hard work.

Despite the prevalence of opioid addiction and the difficulty many have to overcome it, treatment facilities are working hard to provide patients with effective and proven methods that can help them find peace-of-mind in long-lasting sobriety. With a multifaceted approach to handling all aspects of addiction, recovery is entirely possible. Those with substance use disorder don’t have to go through treatment that will require them to continually revisit their illness and battle daily with the lasting psychological matters that can make healing difficult and prevent them from focusing on things that will make their lives feel whole. Relapse prevention is giving patients an opportunity to take their health and happiness into their own hands and rebuild what addiction has taken away from them.