Person with drink looking stressed

Addiction is a complex and serious health condition and recovery isn’t a straightforward journey. It requires ongoing support, dedication and self-awareness and is often a lifelong process.

While individuals are in recovery, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate an impending relapse as well as the signs of a relapse.

Relapse rates vary on the type of addiction and also individual circumstances but latest results from the National Institute on Drug Abuse has revealed that up to 60% of people can relapse during their first year after treatment. With this in mind, taking the time to understand and recognise the signs of addiction can help to empower individuals and ensure that proactive steps are taken to safeguard recovery.

Here, we explore five of the most common signs of relapse, as well as the causes behind relapse and strategies to help individuals to stay on track.

Understanding the Causes of Relapse

It’s important to first realise that relapse doesn’t have to refer to a single event but often describes a process that involves a gradual return to using substances after a period of sobriety. One of the best ways to prevent relapse is to understand the factors that contribute to it but bear in mind these may be different for individuals.

● Triggers – When we talk about triggers, we’re referring to situations, feelings, places or even people that create a certain memory or craving typically associated with substance use. To combat the risk of relapse, it’s essential that you identify personal triggers and put in place specific strategies and coping mechanisms to ensure you don’t come face to face with this trigger and that you have the skills and tools to remain resilient if you do.

● Stress – One of the biggest causes of relapse is stress. This is because many individuals turn to substances in a bid to cope with stressful events, emotions or pressures. With this in mind, it’s important to understand what sorts of events cause you stress as well as activities and ways to calm yourself down.

● Complacency – Finally, another one of the most common causes of relapse is complacency which is when individuals mistakenly believe they have overcome drug or alcohol addiction completely. This may lead to them being more relaxed in their efforts but it is important to remember that recovery is often a lifelong process.

5 Common Warning Signs of Relapse

As well as knowing the typical causes of relapse, it’s also wise to brush on the most common signs of addiction relapse. That way, if you recognise any of these signs in a friend or family member, you can intervene and get them the right help fast. Acting quickly when you spot these relapse warning signs can prevent a full-blown addiction from returning.

● Behavioural changes – If you notice any sudden changes in behaviour including withdrawing from responsibilities and friends, changing in sleeping and eating patterns or neglecting personal hygiene, this can be an indication of a relapse.

● Exposure to triggers – Those who are engaging with people, emotions and events that previously were associated with the substance may also be suffering with a relapse.

● Emotional instability – Mood swings, aggression, depression and anxiety can all indicate emotional turmoil which can indicate relapse.

● Loss of interest in recovery activities – If someone loses enthusiasm for activities that support their recovery including attending therapy sessions or engaging in healthy hobbies, this may also highlight a risk of relapse. As mentioned, recovery is a lifelong journey so these activities are likely to be required for many years.

● Rationalisation – If someone is justifying their behaviour or even trying to tell themselves that they will only engage in a little bit of the substance taking, this can also highlight an impending relapse. This can include minimising the negative consequences associated with the substance or telling themselves that they can control their substance use.

Strategies to Prevent Relapse

To avoid relapse, individuals need to be dedicated to recovery but they also need a strong support system to ensure that they feel guidance and are confident to admit when things may be getting tough. There are a few practical techniques that you can safeguard someone’s recovery:

● Create a relapse prevention plan – This can include addiction triggers, coping mechanisms, support network details, goals and steps to take in the event that any relapse warning signs are obvious. This plan should be personal to the individual and should be regularly reviewed and changed as required.

● Practice self-care – Carrying out regular exercise, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and taking time to relax isn’t just great for physical and mental health but can help someone to feel strong and confident during recovery. Find ways to manage stress and enhance overall wellbeing and you’ll likely realise you can reduce cravings too.

● Discover healthy coping skills – It’s important to realise that individuals will face stress and emotion during their recovery which is why it’s beneficial to create healthy coping mechanisms to prevent a relapse. This could include mindfulness activities like meditation, yoga and breathing work or even seeking professional counselling to discuss feelings.

● Take advantage of support systems – Encourage individuals to use their support systems, whether that’s community groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or even friends and family. Regular communication with a group of trusted people can build encouragement and accountability. Plus, it can provide much-needed guidance when things get challenging.

● Ongoing education: Alcohol addiction/drug addiction, recovery and relapse are never straight forward. Just because you think you know about it, it doesn’t mean you know everything about it. Continuously educate yourself about addiction as well as strategies for relapse prevention and research on addiction recovery.

To maintain long-term recovery, it’s essential that you are able to recognise the signs of a relapse and have the ability to implement preventive measures. Plus, by understanding the causes of relapse as well as personal triggers, you can strengthen the recovery process.

Seeking professional help is also a wise move and can be crucial for overcoming the many challenges that those in recovery face. However, it’s important to remember that with the right knowledge and support, dedication and perseverance, and a solid relapse prevention plan, individuals can navigate the recovery journey with confidence and get their life back on track. Phone today on +44 (0) 800 012 6006 to learn more about addiction, drug and alcohol rehab treatment and relapse.