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An important consideration in providing treatment for substance use disorders is what happens after the inpatient treatment period has ended. Sometimes the transition from fulltime treatment back to the person’s normal daily life can be a challenge, reintroducing exposure to triggers and temptations. When a person needs guidance and support in avoiding relapse during this part of the recovery process, as most recovering individuals do, aftercare can help.
Aftercare provides vital services to help a person make this transition while receiving the support and tools needed to maintain recovery
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 40-60 percent of people relapse to substance use after treatment. These numbers are similar to relapse rates for other chronic illnesses like asthma, which require continued care after treatment to maintain recovery. Substance abuse is no different in this respect – continued care after treatment should be considered part of the treatment plan in order to minimize the chance of relapse.
To help provide this needed service, experts like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommend that treatment follow a full continuum of care – that is, care that reflects the requirements of each stage of treatment, as well as the particular needs of the individual. The continuum begins when a person first enters treatment, and provides the particular services that are needed throughout the treatment process.
As part of the continuum, aftercare includes services provided after formal treatment is completed that can help a person manage the transition out of rehab and back to daily life.
Primarily, these aftercare services are designed to reinforce the lessons from rehab and prevent relapse to drug or alcohol use during the vulnerable period of time right after rehab.
Various studies, such as one from Society, demonstrate that some people don’t feel prepared to re-enter the world after substance abuse treatment for various reasons, fearing that they will relapse because of numerous circumstances. The main goal of aftercare is to help with this issue and provide relapse prevention.
To help meet this goal, various programs provide the following elements that contribute to preventing relapse, among others:
The various programs included in aftercare services provide all of these elements to one degree or another. Which service is appropriate depends on the individual’s particular daily challenges, risk factors for relapse, and needs.
A number of aftercare options are available to fulfill the goals of relapse prevention and meet the challenges of relapse risk, such as:
According to a study reported on in Psychology Today, more than two-thirds of people who complete treatment relapse within the first year after treatment. However, the longer a person can avoid relapse after treatment, the more likely that person is to remain in recovery for the long-term. For this reason, aftercare for at least a full 12 months after treatment is ideal to prevent relapse during this vulnerable period of time.
While not all aftercare programs last this long, there are elements that can continue through this period and beyond. For example, a person can remain in a 12-Step program for as long as desired, and many alumni programs continue year after year and can be accessed for as long as the person wishes to be involved. Even if the more intense elements end within a few months to a year, these continuing elements of aftercare in the years following treatment can provide continued motivation and support that help to maintain recovery for the rest of the person’s life.
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