Apr 9, 2024

The Top Ten Causes of Relapse 

The road to addiction recovery is one of the most challenging things you may face. One thing that is on the mind of almost everyone who has gone through addiction treatment is if they’ll be one of the 40% – 60% of people who relapse after rehab. Understanding and being aware of the top causes of relapse can help prevent it from happening. 

Ten Reasons People Relapse 

During alcohol and drug rehab, learning to recognize the common causes of relapse is an important part of achieving long-term recovery. Each person is different, and so are the reasons they may relapse, but many of the causes have one of these ten things in common. 

1. Stress

Stress is one of the most common reasons people relapse. When we experience stress, our bodies respond by producing more of a hormone called cortisol. This triggers the fight or flight response, which can influence how we think and act in certain situations. This can lead to a lapse of judgment in using drugs or alcohol and cause relapse. 

Stress can come at us from every angle in life, and developing tools to learn to cope with stress is important in addiction recovery. Addiction counseling at the Massachusetts Center for Addiction, whether it’s individual or group therapy, can help you learn the necessary tools to face life’s stressful moments without turning to drugs or alcohol. 

2. Cravings & Reminders of Past Use 

Cravings for drugs or alcohol can be unpredictable when working through addiction recovery. They can also still exist as a factor in your life long after addiction treatment is complete. Cravings can be triggered by memories or reminders of past use that romanticize substance use and create urges to experience those moments again. 

If cravings remain a strong influence during and after addiction rehab, medication-assisted treatment may be an effective approach for long-term recovery. 

3. Mental Health Issues 

Addiction often doesn’t exist on its own but rather as an element of a co-occurring mental health condition. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and personality disorders are just a few examples of mental health conditions that can accompany substance abuse tendencies. The risk of relapse can be higher when mental health issues are undiagnosed or untreated. 

Dual diagnosis therapy at Massachusetts Center for Addiction is part of our holistic approach to addiction recovery, which addresses and treats co-occurring mental health disorders during addiction treatment. 

4. Exposure to Personal Triggers 

Each person working through alcoholism or drug addiction has their own triggers that when exposed to them, can raise the risk of relapse. These can be emotional triggers, social triggers, or physical triggers. 

Identifying and being committed to avoiding triggers whenever possible is important, as is learning coping skills to help you overcome substance use urges when exposed to your triggers. 

5. Social Pressure 

Being around certain social situations and people where alcohol or drugs are used is one of the common causes of relapse. Not everyone in your life will be supportive of your recovery journey and may encourage you to have just one drink or use drugs just this one time. It’s difficult to be in a social situation where it seems everyone around you is using drugs and alcohol while you’re trying to stay clean. 

6. Lack of Support 

A support network is one of the most valuable assets during addiction recovery. That network can be family and supportive friends, and it can be the network of support you find through addiction recovery programs. We strongly encourage family therapy to work through the trauma and harmful effects of addiction, to help build a strong, reliable, and effective family support network during addiction recovery. 

7. Overconfidence

Reaching the point in addiction recovery where you feel confident in your ability to resist temptation and triggers and overcome cravings is a huge accomplishment. Still, it’s important not ever to feel overconfident because triggers and cravings can catch everyone off guard. 

Feeling good, being in a good mood, and being satisfied with life can appear to be a “safe zone” in addiction recovery, but sometimes it’s possible to feel so good and so confident that it feels like you can handle one drink or use a drug just one time. 

8. Boredom

Recovering from addiction means that you’re not filling the voids in your time the same way that you previously had. Not knowing how to fill those moments then leads to boredom and relapse. This is an example of when having a strong support network to turn to is important. Aftercare programs can help you learn new habits, develop healthy hobbies to fill extra time, and learn how to shift the focus away from substance use. 

9. Dating & Relationships 

It’s recommended that you refrain from dating and starting new relationships due to the risk of relapse in addiction recovery. It’s common to search for something to fill the void that drinking or substance use once occupied, and starting a new relationship might feel like the perfect distraction. 

There are several reasons that dating and intimate relationships can lead to relapse. Dating frequently involves going out, even if it’s just to dinner, and putting you in a scenario where you’re surrounded by others who are drinking. Relationships come with stress, which can trigger relapse, and you may even associate some of the pleasant moments of starting a new relationship with the highs that drug or alcohol provided, leading to thoughts of using again. 

10. Pain

When addiction is the result of misusing drugs to relieve pain, the pain doesn’t magically disappear just because you’re going through addiction recovery. It’s important to work with your health care provider, along with your addiction recovery team to find solutions for your pain that don’t put you at risk of addiction relapse. 

What To Do After a Relapse 

Relapse in addiction recovery is a blip on the radar, not a complete failure. If you’ve relapsed, contact the Massachusetts Center for Addiction, and let us help you get back on path. Contact us today at 844-486-0671 for a confidential assessment. 

MCA Staff
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