What Is The Abstinence Violation Effect?

These alcohol-related cognitions are placed in the relapse prevention model within the overlap of the tonic stable processes and the phasic fluid responses. Physical relapse is what you might be imagining when you think about a relapse; it’s taking your first drug or drink after achieving sobriety. According to Marlatt, there is a difference between the first initial lapse and complete abandonment of abstinence as a goal. And the progression from a lapse to uncontrolled active addiction isn’t always inevitable if you seek help in time. Similar to the reward thought, you may have another common thought after a period of sobriety. When you’ve experienced some success in your recovery, you may think that you can return to drug or alcohol use and control it.


Internal and external antecedents of binge eating episodes in a group of women with bulimia nervosa. You might imagine a relapse as a single event that occurs during a moment of weakness. Relapses, however, don’t begin with action; they begin in the mind. The abstinence violation effect, is different from the typical relapse. Someone experiencing the abstinence violation effect will relapse, then struggle to get sober again because of how they perceive they are perceiving their relapse, and themselves. Guiding a person in developing even more coping skills for future high-risk encounters.


Twelve-step can certainly contribute to extreme and negative reactions to drug or alcohol use. This does not mean that 12-step is an ineffective or counterproductive source of recovery support, but that clinicians should be aware that 12-step participation may make a client’s AVE more pronounced. Physical relapse – This is the phase where you actively start using again.

The Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions is an independent 5013 nonprofit located in Pittsburgh, PA. Our mission is to help people respond effectively to substance use and related problems. You can receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time. Taking you through the lapse step-by-step to understand how you could prevent it in the future.

MeSH terms

These natural emotions https://ecosoberhouse.com/ necessarily cause emotional relapse but how you cope with them. Recent theory and empirical data suggest that self-efficacy plays an important role in resistance to relapse for substance abusers. Another key in the relapse process, according to Marlatt and Gordon , is the abstinence violation effect, which comprises self-attribution for failure and affective reaction to violation of self-imposed standards. The combination of unrealistically high standards and low self-efficacy for following those standards may potentiate the risk for relapse.

I’ll try again next year” then we are likely not going back to that gym. However, if we are aware of the AVE and it’s power, we can prepare ourselves for drifting/slipping from our goals and increase the chances of returning to our goals. As a member of the Amethyst Recovery Center marketing team, Justin Kunst dedicated his time to curating powerful content that would reach and impact individuals and families who are struggling with substance abuse. As noted above, one possible characteristic of abstinence violation effect is the decision to give up entirely. When our defenses are down, we may not even think about our first drink.

Is a Relapse Dangerous?

We have come to understand the nature of a relapse better over the past few decades. It was once treated as a single event that marked the end of recovery and a failure of addiction treatment. However, relapse happens to about half of the people who achieve sobriety. Those seem like steep odds until you realize that other chronic diseases like hypertension and asthma have similar relapse rates. A period of successful recovery and abstinence is something to be celebrated.

abstinence violation effect considered the abstinence violation affect a serious risk factor for relapse that could be avoided by understanding the difference between a slip and a full-blown violation of one’s commitment to recovery. While he considered 12-Step programs and other similar approaches to recovery to be useful, he also believed that the notions of a lapse and relapse were not realistically conceived by many recovery programs. This perceived violation results in the person making an internal explanation to explain why they drank and then becoming more likely to continue drinking in order to cope with their own guilt. People in addiction recovery often experience drug cravings when they go through stress.

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