The Abstinence Violation Effect and What It Means in Recovery

The most important thing to remember when experiencing challenges in recovery is to accept them and find healthy ways to get past them so that the recovery can continue. For some, this process is difficult to grasp, and this difficulty can lead to major setbacks, including relapse. Within a broader psychological and behavioral treatment, one of the possible techniques to use to reduce the probability that the Abstinence Violation Effect will occur, consists of training in different cognitive strategies. Cognitive dissonance occurs because the addictive “drinking again” behavior does not fit the person’s desired self-image of withdrawal.

what is abstinence violation effect

A person’s guilt is a difficult emotion to carry, one that can constantly replay in their minds, causing them to use substances again to ease their guilt. Creating, implementing, and adhering to a relapse prevention plan helps to protect your sobriety and prevent the AVE response. While you can do this on your own, we strongly suggest you seek professional help. A good clinician can recognize the signs of an impending AVE and help you to avoid it. These negative thoughts fuel a dangerous cycle fed on hopelessness and more guilt. In order to cope or avoid these damaging thoughts, these individuals turn back to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.

Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE)

Still, you should also realize that relapse isn’t guaranteed, especially if you stay vigilant in managing your continued recovery. Relapse is viewed by psychologists as more of a process than a singular event. A relapse is the result of a series of events that occur over time, according to psychologist and researcher Alan Marlatt, Ph.D. Nevertheless, 40 to 60% of people who once were addicted to a substance and achieved sobriety relapse at some point, based on estimates from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). As with all things 12-step, the emphasis on accumulating “time” and community reaction to a lapse varies profoundly from group to group, which makes generalizations somewhat unhelpful.

  • It doesn’t seem logical that we would still experience cravings when we were only just recently hurt by a relapse.
  • A good clinician can recognize the signs of an impending AVE and help you to avoid it.
  • By the end of treatment, most gamblers will have experienced a prolonged abstinence from gambling.
  • Emotional relapses can be incredibly difficult to recognize because they occur so deeply below the surface in your mind.
  • Having a solid support system of friends and family who are positive influences can help you to remain steady within your recovery.

If you are worried that you might be headed for a relapse, you don’t have to wait until it happens to reach out for help. You might imagine a relapse as a single event that occurs during a moment of weakness. The abstinence violation effect is also considered an immediate factor of relapse. If you are in recovery and are feeling the desire to use again, do not ignore the feeling. Doing so can allow you the chance to save yourself from relapse before it is too late.

Acceptance and commitment therapy

Both slips and even full-blown relapses are often part of the recovery process. In other words, abstinence violation effects make a single lapse much more likely to turn into a full return to a full relapse into negative behavioral or mental health symptoms. In the context of addiction, a breach of sobriety with a single drink or use of a drug has a abstinence violation effect high likelihood of a full relapse. More and more, behavioral health organizations are moving away from “kicking people out of treatment” if they return to substance use. This type of policy is increasingly recognized as scientifically un-sound, given that continued substance use despite consequences is a hallmark symptom of the disease of addiction.

what is abstinence violation effect

In a similar fashion, the nature of these attributions determines whether the violation will lead to full-blown relapse. Marlatt and Gordon’s relapse prevention program is aimed at treating alcohol addiction. It talks about the Violation Effect of Abstinence, which implies the fact of relapsing into addictive behavior within a treatment of withdrawal or detoxification.

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