Recovering from addiction is one of the toughest experiences a person can go through and, unfortunately, the struggle doesn’t end after rehab. In fact, National Institute on Drug Abuse states that 40 to 60 percent of drug addicts tend to relapse from their plan of treatment.
In a groundbreaking study conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) in order to determine the specific time period that adults addicted to cocaine are most vulnerable to relapse. After a span of five years, it was discovered that the most intense periods of craving for illicit substances usually occur right at the release from addiction treatment programs and facilities.
Other findings from the study indicate that addicts are increasingly susceptible to relapse from day two to one month of abstinence and that they are most at risk for relapse between one and six months. It was also found that cue-induced cravings of the substance (cravings elicited by the exposure to cues previously associated with drug use) play a major role in relapse.
This is a landmark study in that researchers used objective, tangible and measurable methods, instead of just self-reporting surveys, to better understand patterns of relapse in addicted individuals.
What Does This Mean?
The results from this study suggests that people struggling with drug addiction are being released from treatment programs at the time they need the most support—and this should set off alarm bells in the addiction community.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) promotes the concept that “long-term follow-up (is necessary) to prevent relapse.” They state, “Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical…Most patients require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives.”
The indications of this research can then alter the agenda of aftercare programs as personalized treatment strategies are shown to be more and more essential immediately completing a stay at a rehab program.
Below are just some of the elements that one may use to maintain a sober lifestyle after rehab.
Counseling: A qualified therapist provides an unbiased support system that can assist addicts to learn skills in coping with their new sober lifestyle. For many, it may be the first time in years they are facing daily life without using drugs or alcohol. Regular and consistent appointments with a professionally trained addiction counselor are an indispensable path to success.
Staying busy: Boredom is the enemy of sobriety. When the daily life of an addict no longer revolves around the drug and daily activities are no longer limited by substance abuse, many become lost and may relapse. Addicts need a daily structured lifestyle and a clear focus on goals, targets and achievements. Work, exercise, meditation and other daily activities are necessary for keeping both the mind and body occupied on healthy, productive activities.
Group support: Narcon, Alcoholics Anonymous and similar organizations provide meetings with others who are working on conquering their addictions. This free support is usually anonymous and allows for the individual to interact with, learn from, and engage in mutual support while be surrounded by others who are also struggling with addiction. It provides an ongoing source of support at all stages of the recovery process. The encouragement received from these meetings is a vital part of maintaining sobriety.
Friends and relatives: The role of family and friends in staying sober should not be underestimated. However, these individuals must be people who are supportive of the addict’s recovery, and not those who will further hinder them in the process.