By: Cedar Point Recovery 10 May 2016

Persons who are on the path of recovery will find that there are some common markers for when someone is on the slippery road that leads off the path and into relapse. Former addicts may discover relapse triggers somewhere along the way and this can result in them having a craving and eventually declining completely back into their old ways. Researchers have instituted comprehensive treatment methods that are top of the line in separating previously dependent persons from prospective triggers and making them prepared for when it is inevitable to face one. They have been able to do this over years of research that was geared towards bettering the healing process.

Understanding Relapse Triggers

Relapse triggers come in various ways and forms, firstly, but when there is an exposure to one, behaviors, thoughts and emotions arise that were associated to a former addiction. Scientifically speaking, relapse triggers are also called cues. Going back to Pavlov’s psychology, and to his classical conditioning research, certain cues have the tendencies to bring on a particular responded to many beings; an example is a dog salivating in the presence of food.

This is caused, mainly because of the different paths that have been impacted by drug abuse and addiction. When a person achieves the reward of the manipulative and powerful substances taken, their brain recognizes the satisfying pattern and then begins to reconfigure the brain’s connections to encourage continual satisfaction. Reconfiguring of the brain causes obsessive thoughts and behaviors impulses to occur. When an extended period of addiction congeal the maladaptive alterations in the brain, it can be extremely hard to return to healthy ideals. To sum up, this process is a real-world example of classical conditioning in operation.

Along with better comprehension the mechanics of cues and triggers it is essential to grasp how they can occur daily.

Relapse Triggers: Sight and Hearing

Visual and aural stimuli are the most frequently mentioned types of cues. Again, this will take us back to Pavlov and his experiments. The famous researcher not only exposing the subjects to visually observable triggers such as the presence of food but he magnificently linked auditory cues like ringing a bell to the same behavioral responses. Numerous studies of this time have also observed the effects of sight and sound. An experiment done in 2003 to compare the two types of stimuli revealed that visual cues had a greater impact on attention and behavioral modification, however as active combination of each was a significant influence targeting new responses.

Other specialists within the field have showcased this vital, but frequently unnoted development. Susan R. Barry, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at Mount Holyoke College’s Department of Biological Sciences has experience in optometric vision therapy and grooming other perceptual skills. With regards to the entire process, she said, “The first area of our visual cortex to receive input from our eyes is called the primary visual cortex. It was once thought that neurons in this area respond almost exclusively to stimuli coming from the eyes. But we now know that the activity of these neurons is affected by ‘higher’ neurological centers which are involved in prediction and planning.”

Using drugs to abuse these pathways can seriously damage ability to predict the consequences to come. An effective cleansing and recuperating strategy can form new pathways toward health, however. Increasing one’s awareness of visual stimuli can lead to a more conscious view of objects and circumstances that would result in triggers.

Relapse Triggers: Smell and Taste

Two other significantly important senses are smell and taste. A shared experience for many is that they can “go” to different places and times with just one sniff, but scientific proof is available that supports this experience. The Department of Neuropharmacology at The Scripps Research Institute did a study that tracked the neurological response to cues from one’s surrounding to a specific part of the brain, the nucleus accumbens. By assessing the activity of this region, the researchers were able to tell if smell could bring about stimulation and behavioral variations. They were able to link distinctive smells with either taking alcoholic or non-alcoholic doses. This stimulus-response association remains influential to the individual’s behavior even after a period of abstinence.

Other associated research puts the sense of taste into the picture.  The reason for this is because both smell and taste play an identical role in the body’s olfactory system. A key illustration of how these two elements interact is how one experiences flavor. A 2013 study done at the University of California at San Francisco discovered more profound connections. It was discovered that prior to expositing lab rats to the smell or taste of alcohol, a small window of opportunity arose for eliminating recollection of memories. Cravings in the subjects used in the test ended stopped when a new drug called Rapamycin was given to them. A continued effort to learn about these intrinsic complexities of behavior will nurture more increase in bettering the treatments for addiction.

A range of various feelings will have a robust impact on reinforcement. If one sees addiction as a behavioral pattern that is learned, it becomes easy to understand why triggering cues can have such a powerful effect on human behavior; even after a period of long-term treatment. Even though relapse remains the primary threat to a smooth recovery from addiction, it is essential to know how these influential elements can come about in order to better guard one’s self against them.

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