New research conducted by Brown University could be the key to improved methods used to treat recovering addicts.  This research has identified that region of the brain where the neural process occurs which can lead to a relapse.  Finding ways to block a crucial step in this neural process can prevent a stress-induced relapse.

The Effects of Stress

Periods of intense stress can be a powerful trigger for a person who has an addiction and can cause an addict to start using again, even after having been clean for an extended period.  It is important for a recovering addict to find alternate ways to deal with stress other than turning to the substance they are trying to avoid.

Stress is powerful and increases a peptide known as corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which can have a broad range of effects, including increased anxiety, suppressed appetite, clinical depression, and sleep disturbances.

Primary Sources of Stress

There are many sources of stress, but some of the main ones are those that people face every day.  If a person is injured in an accident and then develops chronic pain, this can lead to intense stress.  Similarly, if a person has a job that is extremely demanding, they may turn to the comfort of their addiction to calm themselves down at the end of the day.

If a person is in a relationship, their significant other can be a source of stress.  It could be that their partner is unemployed or demanding, and this can cause the recovering addict to relapse to deal with the constant stress.  When a recovering addict is dealing with something unexpected that causes stress, they may be unable to deal with that issue without relapsing.

Dealing With Stress

There is everyday stress and there is extreme stress, and in any case, the recovering addict must find a way to address the added pressure without relapsing, especially when they have worked so hard to get clean.  It is important not to let stress build up, and this means dealing with it as it occurs.  In other words, the addict should not let stress build up so much that they believe there is no way to deal with that stress other than using drugs or drinking.

There are a variety of techniques that can be used to alleviate stress. These techniques can be utilized anytime, anywhere, and it is important to determine which one works best for you. These methods include:

  • Talking to someone, whether it be a friend, coworker that you trust or family member.  Talking is a way to alleviate stress by discussing your issue with someone, whether they just listen or offer to help you find a solution to your problem.
  • Meditation.  Daily meditation can be an important way to alter your brain’s neuropathways and help build up a resilience to stress.  Simply sit still, close your eyes, and focus on reciting a positive mantra to yourself, such as “I am a good person.”
  • Deep breathing.  When you experience extreme stress or a panic attack, deep breathing can be a life saver.  Just take a few minutes to focus on your breathing.  Sit straight, breath in deeply, close your eyes, and concentrate on breathing in deeply and exhaling through your mouth.

How Stress Affects Recovery

A  person who is not managing stress can increase their risk of returning to substance abuse.  It is important to take time every day to reduce your stress and try to relax so that you are not tempted to relapse.

The process of recovery is ongoing, and a person should set attainable goals along the way.  Reaching these goals can be encouraging and can help to propel a person forward, lessening the chance of a relapse.  As stress levels are reduced, it decreases the risk of a person using and allows them to reach realistic goals.