What Are the Warning Signs of a Relapse?

family members discussing relapse
Maintaining a life of sobriety is often an everyday struggle for people with an addiction or abuse problem.

Addiction is difficult to overcome – whether it is an addiction to alcohol, drugs or a harmful behavior such as cutting or gambling. That’s why relapses are relatively common when someone is fighting to overcome an addiction. Knowing the warning signs of relapse can help your loved one stay on track.

In many cases, it may take several tries to kick a habit completely. Even if a person is successful in beating addiction, a relapse may occur weeks, months or years after initial success. But would you know if someone you care about is experiencing a relapse in their efforts to fight addiction?

It’s not always easy for others to tell if someone is about to have a relapse or is currently experiencing one. With some addictions, there will be obvious signs. It’s fairly easy, for example, to notice if an alcoholic is intoxicated. Other addictions can be more subtle. It depends on how good a person is at hiding what they’re doing to notice the signs of relapse. And even if you suspect something, you may not be sure if it’s related to a potential relapse or something else.

Be Aware of Red Flags

These red flags may indicate someone you know is experiencing a relapse. Here are some warning signs that may indicate someone is experiencing a relapse:

The person voices doubt about recovery. If a person starts making comments like “this isn’t working,” or they reminisce about their past as though the addiction was something good in their life, that’s a red flag.

The person is exposing themselves to triggers. A drug addict trying to get clean shouldn’t be hanging around with people who are still abusing. An alcoholic shouldn’t go to the bars they frequented when they were drinking. If you notice this happening, it may be a sign the person is back to their old habits.

Abuse & Addiction

You or a loved one may attempt to stop using drugs or alcohol, but return back to use. There’s no cure for abuse or dependence but our providers can help with treatment goals.

You may attempt to stop using drugs, but repeatedly return to drug use despite physical, emotional or social harm. Drug dependence means that the body has begun to require the drug in higher doses to have the same effect and to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

The person is uncomfortable around others. If someone knows their family, friends or co-workers will be able to figure out that they’re relapsing, they’re likely to withdraw from social situations and interactions. They may also appear more stressed than usual.

The person stops participating in activities meant to help them recover. If the person was going to a counselor or support group for help with their addiction, but they no longer show interest in continuing to seek help, it’s possible they’re about to relapse or may have already done so.


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