Drug addiction relapse, defined, is a return-to-the-substance behavior after a period of abstinence.1 The process begins even before the actual taking of the drug, as the person struggling may have thoughts about his or her drug of choice or cravings for the substance. Some of the signs of an impending relapse include:
- Hanging around with friends who were users
- Acknowledging thoughts and discussions on the drug
- Neglecting support systems
- Feelings of being cured
Reasons for Relapse into Drug Abuse
There are many reasons for drug addiction relapse. Negative emotions (anger, trauma, stress, and sadness), strong urges/temptations, ignoring withdrawal symptoms, conflict with others, testing personal control, depression and peer or social pressure2 all have roles to play.
Relapse prevention is the ultimate key to a successful recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction. An important thing to bear in mind is that drug relapse is not a treatment failure. With the right treatment and support, getting back on track quickly is possible.
Ways to Avoid Relapse
If you opt to head home after rehab, it’s vital that you have a safe and emotionally healthy place to go. If your family is not as supportive of your recovery as you would like, consider choosing a different option. If your family is far away and you don’t yet know people in recovery in your area, consider finding a place to live that you can afford or choose roommates that understand and support your continued recovery. Connections you make during rehab may help, as well as 12-Step meetings, follow-up counseling and good old-fashioned word of mouth. Your rehab facility can also connect with other aftercare options like a sober-living home or other group facility for those in transition after treatment.
In the same way, you will need to find employment at a job where drugs and alcohol are not used by fellow employees or being served to patrons. For some, waiting tables or cooking in restaurants that serve alcohol is not a good idea in the first year after treatment. Living a life of recovery means it takes time to be around alcohol again and continue to make healthy choices. Graveyard shifts, construction jobs, fishing boats and other professions where happy hours are a regular thing may prove to be too much temptation in those early days of sobriety. The best way to prevent relapse — while trying to make ends meet — is to find a job that offers steady hours with limited stress.
- Attend a long-term drug rehabilitation program. Longer treatment provides a stronger foundation and includes counseling, learning about addiction and ways for a client to stay sober.
- Find a support group. Attending a support group regularly is one of the most important things you can do to stay clean and sober. Having a safe place to share your emotions, struggles and victories can make choosing to stay substance free much easier.
- Stay away from people you associate with your past addiction. Individuals who have just completed a drug addiction rehab program make the mistake of going out with friends who are still drug abusers. Keep yourself away from the negative influences of your sobriety.
- Be a part of drug free groups and other activities. Keep yourself preoccupied with church activities, a sport or hobby, and get involved with several community organizations. These can keep you busy and productive at the same time.
- Keep away from bars and nightclubs. These places often have high incidences of substance abuse and can be very dangerous to a person who is building a new life free from the influence of alcohol and drugs.
Talk to your doctor about how to avoid the use of prescription drugs that have the potential to be abused. Medications with abuse potential can include pain killers, sleeping pills, anxiolytics, antipsychotics and antidepressant drugs. Ask for a drug free alternative treatment whenever possible. It’s also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and developing healthy eating habits.
When you feel better physically it’s easier to keep your emotions under control. And when you are emotionally healthy, saying “no” to drugs and alcohol become your new way of life. Finally, keep the number of an addiction hotline and your accountability partner and support group director handy.3 Being able to talk to someone in the middle of a craving or difficult time can be a powerful step in avoiding relapse.
Findng Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction
If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.
1 “Treatment and Recovery.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA. July 2014.
2 Sack, David. “Why Relapse Isn’t a Sign of Failure.”Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers. 19 Oct. 2012.
3 “National Helpline.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA. 14 May 2014.