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What are the Warning Signs for Drug Relapse?

A man worried about the signs of relapse

Is somebody you know getting treated for alcoholism or drug addiction? Then it is good to spot a potential relapse. That way you can try and prevent it before it happens. But how do you figure it out before it is too late? Let’s uncover potential signs of relapse on drugs. Also, we’ll consider what relapse is and why relapses happen. Then we’ll take a look at relapse prevention therapy.

What Is a Relapse?

A relapse is when an individual stops working towards their goal of sobriety. This usually means returning to using drugs or alcohol.

The process of being free of addiction is rarely a straight line. There are usually detours along the way, where someone gets back into old habits.

The good news is that even if there is a relapse, that doesn’t mean all progress gets lost. It is usually only a temporary blip, and they can get back on track. 

Signs of a Relapse

When someone is about to relapse, there are a few warning signs that you can look out for. If you can spot these in advance, you may be able to prevent a relapse from happening:

Secretive Behavior

If you notice that the person is acting secretive or lying about what they are doing, it could signal a relapse. They might start avoiding family and friends, and not engage with them.

This is because many people feel shame around relapse. But it is important to remember to not blame them, as relapse is often a natural part of the recovery process. 

Mood Changes

Some people when they are about to relapse show signs of mood change. They may be more irritable than before, or more sad and self-destructive. It could also be that they change mood very fast, flipping from happy to sad in moments. 

Helping them to recognize their behaviors gives them a better understanding of themselves.

Try and get them to verbalize how they are feeling, or suggest they write down their feelings. This might give them more clarity on why they are feeling so emotional.


One of the most common warning signs of relapse is drug or alcohol cravings. if they are verbalizing that they are having these cravings, then it is a good time to step in. 

Try and get to the root of the craving. Check that they are eating well, that they have slept well, and that they feel emotionally secure. Exercise can also help with cravings, so make sure they get some time outside. 


Another key sign is impulsiveness. If you notice them acting in a careless way like spending money they don’t have, they could be in danger of relapse.

Try and give that person the opportunity to think before they act. For example, if they want to buy something that they can’t afford. Try and create a break in their thought process by saying you’ll come back later and get it. This gives them a chance to breathe and rethink, and it could work the same for drugs or alcohol.

Relapse Triggers

A common theme with relapse is a return to previous triggers of addiction. This could be going back to a location where they used to take drugs. Or it could be meeting with people who they used to spend time with. 

Repeating these habits is more likely to cause relapse. This is because it is easier for the brain to use pathways it has already created. So falling back into old patterns is easy.

Why Do Relapses Happen?

Relapses are common and they can happen even to the most dedicated patient. In the long process of sobriety, it is easy for things to trigger a relapse. 

A few of the most common causes of relapse are:

  • Tempting situations or people
  • Coping mechanism for stressful circumstances
  • Other co-occurring mental health problems
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms
  • Guilt caused by relapsing

These reasons can all be managed by the support of friends and family. As long as there is an open conversation with those involved, there is no reason that they cannot get back on track.

Fighting Relapse on Drugs

A relapse on drugs is a common problem during the recovery process. It can be difficult for both the patient and those around them when relapse strikes.

If you’re looking for a supportive environment for rehabilitation, choose Apex Recovery San Diego. We are experts in the recovery process, offering many programs for those with an addiction. With highly trained staff and custom facilities, recovery is around the corner. 

Get in touch today by calling 619.458.3435 to find out more about our recovery programs. We are here to help you on your journey.

Call Our Toll-Free Hotline 24/7 at 877.881.2689