Addiction treatment is a vital part of recovery for many people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, far too few who could benefit from the support and services provided at a skilled drug and alcohol rehab ever seek or receive the help they need to get well. For those that do, the unfortunate reality of relapse remains a concern. If all goes according to plan, recovering addicts leave rehab, participate in aftercare programs, and go on to enjoy lasting health and recovery from the difficulties of drug and alcohol use. However, this is not always how it works. A vast body of research indicates as many as 60% of those who complete an addiction treatment program will relapse and return to using drugs or alcohol. Further research shows that relapse rates for those recovering from alcohol use disorders open parentheses alcohol addiction close parentheses may be as high as 80%.

What is a Drug and Alcohol Relapse? 

Relapse is not a singular event. Studies have shown relapse is a process that occurs in stages (emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse). Each stage is characterized by different signs or signals that you could watch out for to help yourself or a loved one seek help before relapse occurs. It is important to understand that relapse is a normal part of recovery, and it does not mean that addiction treatment or your commitment to sobriety has failed. It might mean you need a little more support and guidance to achieve lasting recovery once and for all.

A relapse occurs when someone sober for some time returns to using drugs or alcohol. There are many reasons why a relapse may occur, and the triggering symptoms are different from person to person. Some of the most common include lack of support structure in your home environment, not wanting to quit for yourself (meaning you enter treatment to please someone else), lack of comprehensive aftercare, and lack of commitment to sobriety. 

Examples of Drug and Alcohol Relapse Prevention Strategies 

The best way to avoid relapse after completing addiction treatment is to ensure you work with your treatment providers to create a relapse prevention plan. A relapse prevention plan will give you a list of things you can do when triggered or encountering stressors that could lead to using or drinking. It is important to note that some of the most common causes of relapse include difficulties at work, financial struggles, emotional difficulties, increase stress, and increased conflict. Although some of these things are unavoidable in your day-to-day life, a strong relapse prevention plan helps you identify emotions that could be triggering and provides a healthy and constructive way to manage them.

Examples of aspects of a relapse prevention plan include strategies to manage high-stress situations, and developing a plan to balance the struggles of work and home obligations. It is also crucial to identify healthy ways to manage triggers. Potential triggers could include places, things, or people that remind you of substance use or negatively affect your emotions, 

Coping with day-to-day life after treatment is often a difficult road for many who are newly sober. Inevitably, there will be bumps and setbacks along the way. It is challenging to start over and meet the challenges and obligations of life without the assistance of drugs or alcohol you once depended on. Even after detox and comprehensive treatment, cravings to use or drink may arise. Additionally, triggers to use will occur and are often impossible to avoid. Working with your therapy team to create a robust relapse prevention plan will provide you with the tools and skills that you need to manage triggers safely and effectively.

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