Relapse: What You Need to Know and Do to Prevent It

After rehab, one fears a relapse. Here are some warning signs to help you recognize relapse and tips on how to prevent relapse to help live a sober life.
Poster displaying how to prevent relapse and know the signs

Relapse happens in many diseases, and addiction is one of them. While a relapse is treatable, it is best to prevent it. Here is a brief explanation of relapse and its warning signs. Also, there are tips on how to prevent relapse that may help you or your loved ones to live a sober life. ~ Ed.


Addiction is bad. You know it.

That is why; you send your loved ones to rehabilitation centers so that their addiction is cured forever.

However, sometimes, things happen contrary to your expectations.

If you’ve been in trouble and gotten out, then the worst that could happen to you is falling back into the same trouble. And, that is what we know as relapse.

If your loved one has undergone an alcohol or drug addiction treatment, then after rehab, there are chances that your loved one may again fall in for the addiction.

Nevertheless, the good news is that such relapses can be prevented. Here are a short guide and some tips to avoid a relapse of addiction and to live an addiction-free life.

But first, let’s understand more about relapse.


What is Relapse

Did you know there is a difference between lapse and relapse?

A lapse is revisiting the old habits once or for a brief time, whereas a relapse is a total return to the harmful behaviors and habits.

As per the dictionary, the meaning of relapse is “deterioration in someone’s state of health after a temporary improvement.”

According to Wikipedia, in the context of drug use, relapse is the reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior. It’s the recurrence of pathological drug use after a period of abstinence. Relapse is often observed in individuals who have developed a drug addiction or either form of drug dependence.

Addiction is also defined as a chronic brain disease. So, just like in any other chronic diseases, there are 40 to 60 percent chances of relapses in addiction. And most relapses occur in the first six months after treatment.

Relapses are not uncommon; these happen to many people struggling to get rid of their alcohol or drug addiction. Because, somewhere on the way, people make mistakes and start drinking or using drugs again.

However, in certain cases, the relapse can be dangerous or risky. Therefore, the person needs to be on guard and be aware of all the warning signs of a relapse to avoid suffering a relapse.

Early Warning Signs of Relapse

Relapses happen due to certain triggers. Actually, there could be one or many triggers acting together that influence the person who has undergone the alcohol or drug de-addiction treatment.

The main triggers, however, are the drug taker’s environment, exposure to alcohol or drugs, and stress or emotional triggers. Moreover, these triggers may induce a craving, which is a strong desire to again use the substance of abuse.

Here are some warning signs of a relapse that can help your loved ones to stay away from such triggers and stay clean.

  • Making excuses or reluctance in cooperation with the post-treatment process.
  • Isolation from support groups as well as family and friends.
  • Having relationship conflicts and breaking away from well-wishing friends.
  • Displaying anger, impatience, and having extreme sensitivity
  • Coping with everyday stressors becomes difficult
  • Meeting and hanging around with old drinking or drug-using friends.
  • Stopping therapy for some odd reasons or just because they are not comfortable with it.
  • Romanticizing the addiction and the days when they were indulging in the substance abuse.
  • Repeated thoughts about drugs and find oneself thinking about using drugs again.
  • Keeping drink or drugs at home.
  • Frequent lies and denials and even changes in mood
  • Believing in and saying that just “one time” would not cause any harm.
  • Exhibit behavioral changes and become selfish and moody often acting like the old days.
  • Feeling overconfident that they can do on their own without any support.
  • Frequently getting emotionally disturbed with feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Becoming irresponsible
  • Getting indulged in other obsessive behaviors and habits like gambling.

There are more relapse signs that one can take notice of and act to not let them trigger a relapse. If unnoticed, these signs could gradually progress towards actions that can put an end to their efforts of sobriety. So, the sooner these relapse warning signs are dealt with, the easier it is to remain sober.

How to Prevent Relapse

Just like your losing weight is dependent on how you execute your diet control plan, the post de-addiction treatment phase also depends on how much you stick on to the plan. In either of the cases, sometimes you slip. But then you make efforts to get back on track.


Yet, the best way to go is to recognize the triggers and significant behaviors that indicate the chances of the recovering person heading for a relapse. You need to have a relapse prevention plan.

Here is what you can do to prevent relapse:

  • Know the red flags or the warning signs
  • Avoid trigger situations
  • Stay focused on recovery
  • Change your routine
  • Avoid old drug-using friends and old haunts
  • Learn how to deal with the positive and negative emotions
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take medication regularly
  • Practice mindfulness exercises like meditation and yoga
  • Learn the techniques to deal with cravings and mental urges
  • Avoid isolations and situations where you feel bored
  • Pick up a creative hobby
  • Find ways to balance work and relaxation
  • Avoid Caffeine
  • Do not miss any counseling or therapy sessions
  • Be positive and surround yourself with positive people
  • Whenever you feel the need, ask for help
  • Join support groups
  • Be kind to yourself; reward yourself for achieving your incremental goals.

There has to be a holistic approach to the efforts to prevent a relapse. It involves various emotional, mental, and physical aspects.

Wrapping Up

Addiction is a chronic disease and relapses are common. However, there are ways to prevent relapses and get control over them.

Practicing the cognitive behavioral techniques (CBT) learned while in the de-addiction rehabilitation centre or program certainly helps keep the relapse in check. This involves conditioning, positive reinforcement, and altering the emotions and thoughts.

Because one starts drinking alcohol or using drugs to meet some needs, the best way to prevent relapse is to identify that need and develop alternative ways to meet those needs by learning various coping skills and strategies.

Finally, a relapse does not mean failure. If a relapse happens after completing treatment, one can still return to some form of treatment and get back on track. It is found that stress is a common relapse trigger and it greatly helps to learn the stress management techniques.

Over to you –

Have you or your loved one gone through a relapse? If not, what were the relapse signs that you observed and what steps were taken to prevent the relapse? Share your experiences in the comments.

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  1. Hi Vinay,
    Happy to be here again after a while.
    Glad to know a bit more about this symptom.
    Yes, it is indeed the worst stage to going back to the old stage of addiction again.
    You covered some of the vital points in this regard and also provided some important solutions to fix it.
    I know one of my family friends went thru such situation it is really an uncontrollable situation. I will surely share this post with the members of his family. I a sure they can pick some vital points in this regard.
    Thanks Vinay for the timely share.
    Keep sharing.
    Best Regards
    ~ Phil

    1. Hi Phil,

      Yes, relapse is bad in all kinds of diseases. It needs to be avoided. I hope this post helps your family friends.

      Thanks for visiting and giving your valuable feedback.

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