Substance Abuse Triggers

By February 26, 2019Relapse Prevention

Understanding Substance Abuse Triggers   

Substance abuse is a lifelong battle. Coping with substance abuse triggers may become easier over time, though. If you do not have personal experience with substance abuse or know anyone who is dealing with addiction, you may have a difficult time understanding the battle. A good place to start is with understanding substance abuse triggers and how they dangerous they can be.

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is not only a lifelong battle, but it may also involve multiple relapses. For addicts and their loved ones, it is important to understand substance abuse triggers and how to cope with such triggers. First, it may be helpful to examine relapses. A relapse is a return of a previous illness, condition, or circumstance. For people who have struggled with substance abuse, they relapse when they use drugs or alcohol again after a period of sobriety.

Preventing relapses involves understanding, coping with, and avoiding triggers that can send addicts into relapse. A trigger is an event, situation, or circumstance that can lead to feelings and emotions that make it difficult for individuals to cope and may lead them to abuse substances again. Individuals may feel anxiety, depression, or panic, and without proper coping skills, they may turn to drugs or alcohol again.

 Common Triggers   

Common triggers related to substance abuse often include events that individuals associate with drugs or events where they encountered drugs. Examples may include weddings or parties that offer alcohol, which may be triggers for someone dealing with alcohol abuse. Other common triggers may include seeing advertisements for the abused substances, spending time around others who are using the substances, or entering stores that sell the substances. While it can be nearly impossible to avoid some triggers, knowing your triggers and how to cope with them after you leave treatment may be the key to a successful sobriety.

 Unique/Personal Triggers   

Some triggers relate more to individuals or situations. Such triggers may include family problems, dysfunctional or abusive relationships, job changes, or other life changes. Another example of a personal trigger might include being in proximity to a dealer’s home, which may create a desire to use. Anniversaries of the loss of loved ones or traumatic events may also be triggers to substance abusers. Other triggers can be objects. Something as simple as a straw or a spoon may remind people of their past substance use and trigger cravings.

 Emotional Triggers   

Emotional triggers evoke emotional responses. People may find it difficult to cope with such responses. This may cause them to use substances again to manage their emotions. Common emotions associated with drug and alcohol abuse are fear, hopelessness, anxiety, panic, dread, sadness, and anger. People who are feeling overwhelmed while living sober lives and making changes needed to stay sober may be driven to relapse because of stress.

 Coping with Triggers   

Knowing your triggers are a good way to cope with them. Effective treatment helps you understand the reasons you began abusing substances. Once you know and acknowledge your triggers, you are better equipped to deal with them.

Ways to manage triggers may include:

  • Avoiding places that tempt you to use

  • Making changes in your health and lifestyle that support your sobriety

  • Ending relationships with people that may trigger you

  • Taking accountability: letting loved ones know your triggers so they can provide extra support for your sobriety

  • Boosting your self-esteem: reminding yourself that you are worthy of sobriety and that substance abuse triggers and relapse are common for those who suffer from addiction

  • Practicing self-care of your physical and mental health: try to get adequate sleep, eat nutritious meals, exercise, spend in nature, connect with family and friends, pursue hobbies, and enjoy down time. Being physically in tune with your body and promoting good health will help you fight cravings

A healthy mental state will help you deal with triggers, which is why it is especially important to seek treatment and continue with support groups, therapies, and other tools to assist your recovery journey. Understanding your feelings and emotions surrounding your triggers will help you learn how to effectively cope.

Effective treatment facilities may be important tools to cope with substance abuse triggers and maintain a life of sobriety. The treatment center you choose should be equipped to deal with dual diagnoses (diagnoses of substance abuse and mental illness), which are common in individuals suffering from addiction. Anxiety disorder is often common among people with substance abuse problems, for example.

Treatment facilities may first address anxiety and treat the symptoms and triggers for anxiety before they address addiction. Anxiety is often the underlying cause of addiction. Without combatting anxiety, it is difficult to address addiction.

Professional therapists at treatment facilities are often well-versed in a variety of therapy techniques and recovery approaches, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

  • Motivational interviewing (MI)

  • 12-steps programs such as AA and NA (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous)

  • Other techniques that address individuals’ unique needs

Successful inpatient treatment programs should treat the person as a whole, using a variety of techniques and therapies to create a specific treatment plan for each individual. This individualization may guide them to successful recovery and a lifetime of sobriety. Teaching coping skills for substance abuse triggers is an essential part of treatment plans and should be at the forefront of every discussion about recovery.

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