DIAGNOSIS: Substance-Use Disorders

TREATMENT: Relapse Prevention (RP) for Marijuana Use Disorders


  • Basic premise: Relapse prevention (RP) is an important component of alcoholism treatment. Specifically, it is also designed for adult marijuana users. The RP model proposed by Marlatt and Gordon suggests that immediate determinants (high-risk situations, coping skills, outcome expectancies, and the abstinence violation effect), and covert antecedents (lifestyle factors and urges and cravings) can contribute to relapse. The RP model is based on specific and global strategies that allow therapist and client to address each step of the relapse process. Specific interventions included identifying specific high-risk situations for each client and enhancing the client’s skills for coping with those situations, increasing the client’s self-efficacy, eliminating myths regarding substance’s effects, managing lapses, and restructuring the client’s perceptions of the relapse process. Global strategies comprise balancing the client’s lifestyle and developing positive addictions, employing stimulus control techniques and urge management techniques. Several studies have provided theoretical and practical support for the effectiveness of group RP treatment with marijuana users.



Relapse prevention workbook for recovering alcoholics and drug dependent persons (Daley, 2009)

Therapist’s guide to evidence-based relapse prevention (Witkiewitz and Marlatt)


Group treatments for addiction (CEU Matrix, 2010; Daley and Douaihy, 2011)

Substance abuse treatment: Group therapy (SAMHSA, 2005/2015)

Clinical report series: Relapse prevention (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1994)

Relapse Prevention (Vivyan, 2007)

Leader's guide: Cognitive behavioural & relapse prevention strategies (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2007)

Relapse prevention plan (version 2) (Therapist Aid, 2014)


Gates, P. J., Sabioni, P., Copeland, J., Le Foll, B., & Gowing, L. (2016). Psychosocial interventions for cannabis use disorder. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2016(5), CD005336.

Lo Coco, G., Melchiori, F., Oieni, V., Infurna, M. R., Strauss, B., Schwartze, D., Rosendahl, J., & Gullo, S. (2019). Group treatment for substance use disorder in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment99, 104–116.

Roffman, R. A., Stephens, R. S., Simpson, E. E., & Whitaker, D. L. (1988). Treatment of marijuana dependence: preliminary results. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 20(1), 129–137.

Stephens, R. S., Roffman, R. A., & Curtin, L. (2000). Comparison of extended versus brief treatments for marijuana use. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(5), 898–908.

Stephens, R. S., Roffman, R. A., & Simpson, E. E. (1994). Treating adult marijuana dependence: a test of the relapse prevention model. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 62(1), 92–99.