Avoiding Relapse During Drug Withdrawal

Relapse is one of the greatest hazards of drug withdrawal. When your body and brain have become dependent on drugs, the absence of these chemicals can trigger overwhelming cravings and cause uncomfortable side effects. Even though withdrawal usually isn’t fatal, many people find that it’s so unpleasant that they would rather go back to using drugs than live through the process. When you’re in withdrawal, being deprived of your drug of choice may make it seem that your life is no longer worth living. 

In fact, life can be much more meaningful, pleasurable and fulfilling without drugs and alcohol — as long as you can make it through withdrawal. With the help of a professional addiction treatment team, you can get through the worst of the side effects and begin the process of building a life that’s truly worth living.

What Causes a Relapse?

If you or someone you care about has experienced a relapse during the early recovery phase, you’re far from alone. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that approximately 50 percent of the patients seen in family practices have a problem with drugs or alcohol, and many of these patients will relapse at some point if they try to quit. In professional treatment programs, teaching clients how to prevent a relapse is one of the top priorities of rehab.

What makes a recovering addict so vulnerable to relapse, especially during the withdrawal period? There are a number of factors that increase the risk of lapsing back into drug abuse:

  • Lack of a strong support system
  • Severity of withdrawal symptoms
  • Lack of effective coping mechanisms to handle withdrawals
  • Premature exposure to psychological stressors and social triggers
  • Failure to get specialized addiction treatment

Specialized addiction treatment programs are designed to help addicts get through the tough early phases of drug and alcohol withdrawal. Through a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial rehab services, you can increase your chances of preventing a relapse considerably.

Can Anything Help Me Through Withdrawal?

For years, addiction specialists have been studying the causes and effects of drug withdrawal to help relieve the physical symptoms. Although there’s no magical cure for drug withdrawal syndrome, there are a lot of ways to make this phase safer and more comfortable:

  • Enroll in a medical detox program. Medical detox is a supervised, structured process that helps your body cleanse itself of intoxicating substances. Supervised detox is much safer and more comfortable than trying to get through this phase on your own.
  • Taper off the drug gradually. While it’s possible to withdraw from drugs “cold turkey,” the physical symptoms will be more extreme — and more dangerous — if you quit suddenly. An addiction specialist can help you develop a plan for weaning yourself off drugs at a safe pace.
  • Take medications for specific side effects. As you withdraw from drugs, prescription medications can help you cope with symptoms like anxiety, nausea, sleeplessness and restlessness. Some medications, like disulfiram, naltrexone, buprenorphine or methadone, can help minimize drug cravings or reduce your chances of a relapse.
  • Join a support group. Talking with other recovering addicts about your experiences in withdrawal may make the symptoms more bearable. You can get a lot of hope and support from 12-step groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).
  • Work with an addiction counselor. Counselors who specialize in addiction treatment can help you learn coping skills to get through the roughest phases of withdrawal. With therapeutic techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and relapse prevention education, experienced addiction professionals have been trained to reduce your risk of backsliding.
  • Explore alternative therapies. Acupuncture, massage, biofeedback and yoga are natural complements to a traditional detoxification program. These holistic practices have been used successfully at many treatment centers to facilitate the detox process and help recovering addicts manage their cravings.
  • Work to improve your overall health. During the withdrawal period, getting adequate rest, hydration and nutrition can strengthen you against a relapse. If you’re like a lot of addicts, you may have neglected your health for a long time. Use rehab as an opportunity to improve your diet, exercise your body and catch up on the sleep you may have missed.

At Axis, we offer an extensive set of rehab services that are tailored to relapse prevention. Because we know how vulnerable you are in this period, we provide a safe, supportive environment that promotes recovery on all levels — physical, mental and spiritual. Talk with one of our rehab specialists about how our personalized treatment programs can give you a strong foundation for a lasting recovery.