A drug relapse is the recurrence of drug abuse from someone who is going through or has gone through a recovery program. Addiction is a chronic disease that is subject to periods of relapse. Usually relapses happen when the person being treated is exposed to certain triggers that increase their risk of returning to substance abuse.
While relapses are common, they are not inevitable. Following steps of drug relapse prevention and taking action early on can minimize the intensity of a relapse period and can reduce your risk for further hardship from substance abuse.
Relapses are often followed by a downward spiral into compulsive behavior and addiction. Since relapses don’t occur suddenly, there are warning signs and other identifiable factors that typically appear early on.
Signs of a drug relapse can be broken down into three stages
- Emotional relapse
- Mental relapse
- Physical relapse
These signs can often be observed weeks before the return to substance abuse. This means there is often time for relapse prevention.
Signs of Drug Relapse
A relapse is often a long and painful process. Many people consider the breaking of abstinence as a relapse. While substance use and abuse is a factor of relapse, it is not the entire issue.
In addition to substance abuse, signs of drug relapse will involve:
- Destructive Thoughts
- Compulsive Behavior
- Neglect of Coping Skills and Healthy Habits
- Return to Unhealthy Behaviors and Environments
- Mood Swings, Including the Recurrence of Depression or Anxiety
- Isolation from Groups and Activities
Many people think that as long as they are free from their former addictive substance they are not in danger of a relapse. However, it is not uncommon for the re-introduction of substance abuse to develop late in the relapse process.
There are situations in which a person is exposed to an addictive substance and may even use that substance while in recovery. While doing so increases your risk of experiencing a relapse, it does not necessitate one.
The term “slip” is used to refer to behavioral “mistakes” or lapses in judgment in which an addictive substance is used in an isolated instance. The thought of lost sobriety often propels people into further destructive behavior, and this may lead to a relapse.
When this happens, it is best to:
- Focus more on the recovery process
- Evaluate what might have led to the slip-up
- Make an effort to prevent future recurrences
A relapse does not undo previous progress made in an addiction recovery program. The coping mechanisms and strategies you learned during a recovery program will still apply as you overcome a relapse. Try to remain conscious of your emotions, moods, and behavior throughout the recovery process to reduce your risk of experiencing a full relapse.