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Identifying Triggers: How to Avoid Opioid Addiction Relapse

Avoiding triggers is an important part of addiction recovery. Opioids, which are common prescription pain relievers, are commonly associated with dependency and addiction. Uncontrollable cravings and a lack of control over substance use are characteristic of addiction; triggers, or certain events that encourage these feelings, can create barriers during recovery. By identifying relapse triggers, you can work on staying sober.

What Is a Trigger?

A trigger is a psychological stimulus, such as an event, circumstance, or another source of trauma that causes feelings of sadness, despair, discouragement, anxiety, or panic. The interaction between triggers and relapse reinforces how substance abuse and mental health are so interrelated. In addition to stress, other common mental health relapse triggers include:

  • The anniversary of a loss or traumatic event
  • Friction with family members
  • Being overwhelmed by too much to do
  • Financial problems
  • Sexual harassment
  • The end of a relationship
  • Receiving negative feedback
  • A specific noise, smell, or taste
  • Being with people connected to addictive behavior

How Triggers Can Lead to Addiction Relapse

It is not fully understood how triggers work. However, several theories exist, including how a threatening situation leads to a fight or flight response, which can inhibit many biological processes, including short-term memory formation. A traumatic event may be remembered as a persisting threat, prompting a physical reaction. Another theory links sensory stimuli with traumatic memories; a person may not even realize the reason for their distress. Habit formation also plays a role in the triggering process; actions associated with opioid use can trigger cravings.

How to Identify Triggers

You can identify triggers by writing down what causes your cravings or symptoms to occur. Keep adding triggers while you think of them. Prioritize ones that are occurring in the present or that are most possible. This can help you be more aware of triggers, so you can prepare yourself and be impacted less by the element of surprise.

Coping Strategies for Relapse Prevention

Are You Coping? on a paper note pinned to a cork notice board.

During recovery, you will have cravings, but know they will eventually pass. While you can’t avoid all triggers, learning to cope with those you can’t control can help. Some coping strategies include:

  • Reducing stress by exercising or contacting a family member, friend, or sober acquaintance.
  • Maintaining interactions with people rather than being isolated, managing a crisis alone, or skipping therapy and group meetings.
  • Taking a walk, reading a book, engaging in a hobby, or otherwise distracting yourself.
  • Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
  • Avoiding people or places connected with substance use or addictive behavior.
  • Finding someone who you trust and who supports your best interests, even during times of celebration when you feel you’re under control.

The Benefits of Rehab and Recovery Services

A counselor can help you identify and understand what feelings/occurrences are triggers and help improve your coping skills. By providing the right treatment plan, it can help raise your awareness level. A rehab/recovery service can also improve your support system. Supportive individuals involved in the plan can learn/point out the danger signs that you might miss.

APEX Recovery uses various modalities to address addiction, as well as substance abuse triggers and coping skills. We can help with the most commonly abused opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine, codeine, and fentanyl. To receive help from our graduate-level therapists and Board Certified Psychiatrists, call 877-798-4404 today.

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