How to Identify Signs of a Potential Relapse

Every day can be a challenge with a history of addiction and is now focusing on their sobriety. The chance that relapse can occur is genuine, but warning signs can help prevent old habits from appearing again.

The Importance of Relapse Education

Educating family and friends to look for potential triggers that could lead to a relapse can be a vital tool to ensure recovery is successful. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is not uncommon for someone recovering from an addiction to experience at least one relapse.

However, it is crucial to remember that even those who have passed on using drugs or alcohol for years can still be a real danger for relapse. The threat comes from the fact that this person will have lost the tolerance they once had for the drugs or alcohol, and because of that, they may consume an amount they used which could lead to an overdose.

Dependence on drugs or alcohol is known as a “chronic disease,” meaning there is always a possibility of relapse no matter how long a person could have stopped using. If a relapse happens, it can make it quite difficult for the person to get back on to the road to recovery because of this strong need to continue using once again and again.

As a result, getting someone back into treatment as quickly as possible following relapse is crucial to their long-term health and recovery.

The Stages of Relapse

Relapse is more of a process with unique stages rather than one event. These three stages are:


Usually, the first stage of relapse is where most recovering people consider using again.

The person shows different negative emotions such as anger, moodiness, and anxiety, sometimes partnered with irregular eating and sleeping habits.


The second stage is the hardest to recover from, is when a person who wants to stay sober long term has an internal tug-of-war in their head about whether they should start using again.

These thoughts will become stronger as the relapse process continues, which is harder and harder to stop as time goes on.  


The third and final stage of relapse is when the addict uses again and the cycle of sobriety is broken.

This stage of relapse is when the person experiences intense cravings to continue using the substance, and it is crucial to enter rehab as soon as possible

Knowing the different stages of relapse and what to expect during each step can be that much easier to detect and prevent. Having the support of loved ones and medical professionals is vital, some addicts feel there’s no need to keep trying too hard to stay sober.

Relapse Warning Signs

Knowing what the signs of a relapse look like can do wonders in helping to prevent it from occurring. Below are some of the potential warning signs of relapse:

Romanticizing the Addiction

One of the most common signs is when a person recovering from drug or alcohol dependence sees their addiction in an unrealistic or romanticized light.

By looking at their addiction through an unrealistic lens, they think that their dependence on drugs or alcohol was not as bad as everyone made it out to be. This is a dangerous trigger as it plants this idea that their addiction was positive and not at all dangerous to their mental or physical health.

Using One More Time

Another common dangerous warning sign is when someone suggests that they could start using the substance again because they believe they won’t fall back into their addiction.

The reality is that addiction of any kind is a chronic disease that needs to be handled continuously and never really goes away. Relapse is just around the corner if someone is talking about using just one more time or is no big deal.

Revisiting Old Friends

Cutting ties with old friends or relationships who have troubles with drug or alcohol dependence can go a long way to stopping a relapse from happening.

If friends or acquaintances from the past continue to be involved in substance abuse, this can severely derail a person’s recovery.

Doubting the Recovery Process

As a person continues their rehabilitation, they may become discouraged as feelings of doubt creep in about how effective the recovery process is.

Common signs of this are that the person may openly comment about how their recovery has been a waste of time or think nothing has changed since they entered rehabilitation.

Another part of this warning sign is the person may stop doing hobbies or activities they used to love doing that they had started since they began their recovery. 

Aspen can Help

Taking the first step in treating drug and alcohol dependence is a scary experience, especially if you do it alone. Let our team of medical professionals and recovery experts guide you as you learn how to handle the stressors of a sober life.

Our team is ready to help you with every step of your road to recovery and to help change your life for the better. Contact the Aspen Behavioral Group to learn how we can help.


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