Overcoming Opioid Relapse: 8 Practical Strategies to Reduce the Risk

How to avoid opioid relapse?

With the arrival of a new year comes new resolutions and goals that instill meaning and motivation for a fresh start. While the most common goals flooding social media and the internet include exercising more, adopting healthier eating, and dedicating more personal time, many individuals also aim to detox, avoid opioid relapse, and stay sober.

Opioid use disorder (OUD) represents a global public health challenge, affecting approximately 40.5 million people who are opioid dependent. Fortunately, recovery from OUD is feasible with proper treatment. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs, combined with complementary therapies, have proven effective in helping people overcome dependence on these substances. However, studies by the Health Research Board have highlighted the persistent propensity for opioid relapse, with rates ranging from 30% to 70%.

If achieving and maintaining a substance-free life is one of your goals for this new year, you may be asking yourself: how do you avoid opioid relapse? MAT Care Clinics is a critical ally in helping you achieve this goal. In this blog, we will explore eight practical strategies to address the possibility of opioid relapse and reduce this risk. While maintaining an opioid-free life can be a demanding journey, it is absolutely possible!

Understanding Opioid Relapse: Risk Factors

Opioid use disorder is a condition that will persist in a person’s life on an ongoing basis. Even though someone may have completed a detoxification program and successfully abstained from substance use, the risk of relapse remains high and ever-present. Opioid relapse occurs when a person fails to maintain their goal of reducing or avoiding drug use and returns to previous levels of use. It is crucial to understand that a relapse should not be considered a failure. Although it can be discouraging after going through a challenging detoxification process, it is a common experience that is often part of the recovery process.

Like drug dependence behaviors, the reasons behind relapse can be highly personal and do not indicate weakness or failure for the individual. Instead, they offer an opportunity to re-evaluate new treatment alternatives and learn new coping mechanisms. However, certain factors may increase the risk of relapse:

  • Situations or circumstances that prompt the person to return to that behavior
  • Housing insecurity, professional and personal problems, social pressures, or stigma
  • Preexisting emotional or mental health problems
  • Preexisting physical health problems that lead to over-the-counter drug use
  • Feelings of guilt generated by withdrawal symptoms
  • Low self-efficacy, which is the confidence in the ability to succeed in a particular area

Preparing to cope with and prevent addiction relapse is essential. Here are eight strategies to reduce the risk of opioid relapse.

8 Strategies for Preventing Opioid Relapse

  1. Engage in Therapy and Counseling: According to research on addiction relapse prevention from the National Library of Medicine, various forms of therapy can assist individuals battling addiction. Motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and community reinforcement approaches aim to address destructive behaviors, boost confidence, provide necessary recovery skills, alter the person’s relationship with the addictive substance, and emphasize the benefits of sobriety. Developing coping skills, enhancing motivation to stay sober, and fostering coping mechanisms are essential components of these therapeutic approaches.
  2. Utilize Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): MAT can be a valuable tool in reducing the risk of opioid relapse. FDA-approved medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Typically combined with therapy and counseling, MAT ensures a comprehensive approach to recovery and works closely with healthcare professionals, who determine the ideal medication and dosage based on individual needs.
  3. Recognize Early Stages of Relapse: According to a study from the Yale School of Medicine, relapse is a gradual process that can last for weeks or even months before a person resumes opioid use. Recognizing these stages is vital for seeking professional help. There are three stages of relapse:
  • Emotional Relapse: Neglecting self-care, suppressing emotions, isolating oneself, and engaging in unhealthy habits
  • Mental Relapse: Battling internal conflicts, experiencing opioid cravings, and idealizing past drug-related experiences
  • Physical Relapse: Rapidly escalating drug use to an uncontrollable level
  1. Establish a Social Support System: Various support programs exist for individuals recovering from opioid use disorder to stay sober. Building a solid social support system, including family, friends, support groups, and addiction counselors, can offer assistance during the early stages of relapse. Expressing emotions and thoughts within a nurturing network can help to maintain individuals’ motivation on the path to recovery.
  2. Identify High-Risk Situations: Identifying triggers that increase the risk of opioid use is fundamental for avoiding these situations. Steering clear of people, places, or seeking help during stressful situations is crucial for relapse prevention.
  3. Develop Healthy Coping Skills: Once you have identified triggers, developing healthy coping mechanisms is crucial. Learning to manage stress and prevent opioid relapse using mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation not only promotes relaxation but also teaches navigating challenges without resorting to substance use.
  4. Address any Physical and Mental Health Issues: Addressing preexisting physical and mental health issues is a strategy to prevent relapse. According to research from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, substance use disorders, and mental health problems often coexist, emphasizing the critical need to address both conditions based on each patient’s needs to prevent relapse.
  5. Implement Healthy Lifestyle Changes: Self-care, exercise, proper nutrition, and sleep hygiene are vital to reducing the risk of opioid relapse. Physical activity releases endorphins, improving mood and reducing cravings. A balanced diet provides essential nutrients, promoting overall well-being, while adequate sleep is crucial for emotional regulation and cognitive function. These factors are vital components in preventing relapse.

Overuse Risk During Opioid Relapse

Individuals dependent on drugs tend to develop tolerance, leading to higher doses to get the desired effect. Abstaining from opioid use for a period can decrease this tolerance, making relapses particularly dangerous. Upon returning to previous levels of opioid consumption, the body may be overwhelmed, leading to a potential overdose. If there is a suspicion of an overdose, it is crucial to seek professional medical help promptly.

The Crucial Role of MAT in Relapse Prevention

At MAT Care Clinics, we recognize the pervasive impact of the opioid crisis in the New England area, leading us to strategically position our clinic in Nashua, New Hampshire, making it an optimal choice for individuals in the surrounding areas seeking assistance in overcoming opioid use disorder. Our evidence-based medication-assisted treatment utilizes FDA-approved medications guided by experts in the field to provide a meaningful approach to helping individuals cease opioid use by minimizing cravings and withdrawal symptoms that heighten the risk of relapse.

For those who have faced challenges with alternative approaches, MAT emerges as an ideal option. At MAT Care Clinics, you’ll find a dedicated team of professionals ready to guide you to accomplish your goals, creating a comprehensive plan tailored to your specific requirements and needs. If you are prepared to embark on a life free from opioids, call us at (833) 622-0628 or contact us online to begin your journey promptly and recover your life this 2024!

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