When a person has undergone treatment for painkiller abuse but begins to take the drugs again in the same manner which led to the problem in the first place, this is known as "relapse."
There is always the possibility of relapse, but if a person is aware of the signs and symptoms, he may be able to seek help before a relapse episode even occurs.
What Can Cause Relapse?
Several factors can contribute to a relapse episode. These include, but are not limited to:
- Becoming lax in following all the instructions and advice that was given during the treatment process.
- Continuing to associate with people, go to places, or otherwise get into situations that led to the painkiller abuse to begin with. Along the same lines, however, isolating oneself from people who can provide support, such as family members and friends, or support groups, can cause a relapse episode.
- Failure to maintain a routine or schedule. Not knowing or in fact knowing what should or will happen next can often precipitate a relapse episode for an addict.
- Not making sure one's home or other residential environment is drug-free. This may mean one must seek help for or even isolate oneself from family members or others who are still abusing painkillers.
- Becoming lax in paying attention to one's physical and mental feelings. These can include failing to notice if urges or cravings are becoming strong once again, noting if feelings of depression or anxiety are occurring or have started occurring again, as well as others.
How Can a Relapse Episode Be Prevented?
Each of the factors that can cause a relapse episode can also be used to "stay ahead" of the possibility of there even being a relapse episode. The ways to do this are presented in the same order as were the factors that can lead to a relapse.
- Continuing to follow all instructions and advice that was given by professionals during the treatment process. This includes keeping all follow-up appointments, especially if medical intervention was used as a part of the treatment protocol.
- Continuing to attend support group meetings; getting involved in social and other situations that are totally different from those which led to painkiller abuse to begin with. These can include finding new people with whom to associate, starting or resuming attendance at one's religious meeting places, joining civic organizations, or other things.
- Setting up and adhering to a routine or schedule. It may be necessary to start out with a very rigid one, which allows little if any room for flexibility, then adjusting it as time passes and one becomes more confident in the ability to recognize and react to symptoms and signs of relapse.
- Maintaining diligence in ensuring that one's home or residential environment is and contains to remain drug-free. Again, this may mean actually having to make alternate living arrangements or really taking the initiative to ensure that family members with painkiller abuse problems do receive help.
- Making sure that one literally takes the time each day to determine one's physical and mental feelings. Keeping a daily journal may help with this. The act of scheduling time to make entries in the journal, as well as having a record that can help one determine if there is even the possibility of a relapse episode even being a consideration can have a dual benefit. One is adhering to the task of setting and maintaining a schedule, as well as having a written record of feelings.
What If Relapse Should Occur?
If the person who underwent painkiller use treatment or someone else who is aware that a relapse episode is imminent sees this, immediate steps should be taken to countermand it. These may include calling a person's sponsor or someone else associated with one's support group, calling the facility where treatment occurred, or even making arrangements for a return to the facility.
If a relapse episode does occur, steps to ensure one's physical health has not been compromised should be taken first, and then arrangements should be made for treatment to begin again (if it has been a while) or continued (if treatment was discontinued before completion).
If a relapse episode is a result of one having discontinued treatment before it was completed, it may be necessary to start the entire treatment process over again. If this is the case, it should be done. It is important that the person who is in danger or relapse, or has relapsed, know that this doesn't mean there is no hope. Recovery is an ongoing process, and there can be setbacks. Emotional support is as necessary as physical intervention.