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Are relapses able to be predicted? Do they have any early warning signs?

Gorski and Miller have done a great deal of work in the area of relapse. They have identified steps which lead toward relapse. Research by McClellan et al published in the prestigious JAMA shows that relapse in addiction is no higher a rate than that in diabetes, hypertension and asthma.

1) Attitude change indicating no need to participate in recovery programs, and changes in life which signal stressful life event.
2) Elevated stress as seen as over-reactivity to life events.
3) Reactivation of denial, especially regarding existence of stress.
4) Dangerous situation as person turns toward substances for relief.
5) Behavior change. Person begins to act differently, especially after a period of stress, with evident change in routine.
6) Social breakdown. Sober social structure lessens and disappears, and withdrawal, retreat, or reclusive behavior predominate.
7) Loss of structure. Person may sleep late, skip meals, not keep responsibilities and commitments, and deviate from structure established during recovery.
8) Loss of judgment. Person has difficulty making decisions, or makes very unwise decisions. Emotional swings from numb to overly reactive become evident.
9) Loss of control. Begins to make irrational choices, and is unable to interrupt or alter them.
10) Loss of options. Person believes that resuming drug use is only option, or envisions extreme emotional or physical collapse or disaster.

At this point, most individuals experience a relapse. Untreated co-occuring disorders, a “taste of the drug”, the situational stress, and people places and things are known for triggering relapse. Of course, addiction is a chronic relapsing disease but the best course of action is to avoid allowing all these steps to occur. WYNK flash videos will help you learn more. Call for help in your own community.


by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.



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