Do a search under “relapse” and you will come across article after article with the word “set back” attached as if they both go together. The possibility that a patient being treated for Opioid Addiction may begin abusing again is an ever-present, but not insurmountable, challenge. The word “set back” to me intimates the loss of something. When in reality, you have actually gained something very valuable: a second chance. If you use this opportunity wisely it could very well serve as the reality check you have been needing to get yourself on the right track once and for all. In the case of many, it is a long over due splash of cold water (reality) as to how fragile recovery is and how we cannot take it for granted even for a second. So, how does this blip in recovery spiral out of control for some?
The “abstinence violation effect” is when substance abusers lapse into drug use after a period of sobriety by telling themselves, “Well, I’ve blown my sobriety; there’s no use trying to be abstinent now,” otherwise known as the “Fuck It” effect. By not being prepared for relapse and instead identifying their relapse as a single life event, patients are overwhelmed by it and continue to abuse. Here at Kemet we are proactive rather than being reactionary. We combine MAT with individual or group counseling as a means to provide patients with the tools necessary to foresee any potential relapse triggers - not after the fact.
We begin by steering the patient away from reactionary, doomsday thinking before he or she starts treatment with us—preferably as soon we begin to treat the patient – at the assessment. This way, if a relapse does occur, we can remind the patient that he or she has not blown the prospect of abstinence, and encourage the patient not to give in to discouragement. This brings us back to combating the abstinence violation effect by helping the patient recognize that a relapse does not mean the end of sobriety. In fact, once the issues leading to the relapse are identified and confronted, the patient can be even more hopeful about achieving a sustained recovery.
At Kemet, we use MAT with Suboxone in a way to buy a patient time to get their priorities in order. When you match MAT with counseling, you increase the probability of recovery exponentially. MAT works by giving people synthetic opiates (Suboxone) to activate the same opioid receptors as when the patient was abusing, but are absorbed into the blood over a longer period of time — staving off withdrawal symptoms and breaking a psychological link between taking a drug and immediately feeling high. At Kemet we recognize that by taking away the physical addiction with Suboxone, this way we can than better focus on the emotional/psychological addiction with counseling.