10 Most Common Causes Of Relapse

There are a variety of common reasons that a person may relapse, including triggers, experiencing stress without healthy ways to cope, and untreated mental illness. If you or a loved one need addiction treatment, Spring Hill Recovery Center can help.

Addiction relapse rates are very high, especially during early recovery.

Studies show that 40 to 60% of people relapse within 30 days of leaving inpatient substance abuse treatment, and there is an 85% chance of relapse within the first year after treatment.

It is crucial for those living with alcohol or drug addiction to be aware of the high risk for relapse, know what their triggers are, and learn coping mechanisms to handle them.

1. Lacking A Support System

Studies have shown that familial dysfunction and a general lack of a support system has a significant and negative impact on a person’s ability to stay sober following drug and alcohol abuse treatment.

Those without a good support network frequently have a more challenging time being able to cope with and relieve negative emotions and stress.

By helping to maintain a network of supportive people around the person in recovery, you can increase the chance that they are able to maintain their sobriety.

2. Triggers And High-Risk Situations

Addiction relapse triggers vary from individual to individual.

Some of the most common triggers for cravings and relapse are:

  • places where they consumed their drug of choice
  • people that they used drugs with
  • social situations in which they used drugs
  • certain times of year, especially holidays like Christmas
  • negative life change such as job loss or loss of a loved one
  • an object that was once used for drug use, such as a needle
  • negative emotions such as loneliness, anger, or sadness
  • smells that they associate with drug use
  • stress
  • anxiety disorders or other mental health disorders

All of these triggers are capable of shaping into high-risk situations that increase the risk of relapse.

3. Stress Without Adequate Coping Mechanisms

Studies have shown that the risk of relapse during the addiction recovery process is increased by stress.

Negative mood and stress are also associated with increased cravings and an increased urge to engage in substance use.

Adequate coping skills such as mindfulness, meditation, physical activities, and other relapse-prevention strategies are crucial for handling stress and ensuring it doesn’t lead to relapse.

4. Complacency

Complacency during recovery can hinder forward progress and even lead to relapse. Recovery is an ongoing process that requires attention and commitment.

There are many reasons why some people become complacent in recovery, including being ambivalent toward change or wanting to feel in control.

Complacency may lead to decreased engagement in supportive services or treatment programs, a lack of self-care, and overconfidence that you don’t need to be cautious about relapsing or engaging in high-risk situations.

5. Untreated Co-Occurring Mental Illness

Nearly half of those with mental health issues also have a co-occurring substance use disorder.

Studies have consistently shown that addressing substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously leads to better health incomes and quality of care.

In some cases, those living with undiagnosed mental health issues may take drugs to alleviate their symptoms.

In other cases, undiagnosed mental health disorders may be a result of alcohol or drug use.

6. Emotional Dysregulation

Studies show that emotional dysregulation can lead to a loss of control associated with drug or alcohol use. Emotional dysregulation can lead to compulsive use.

Alcohol and drugs are often used to regulate emotions and cope with emotional stress.

Those who experience problems with emotional regulation have the inability to identify, understand, and accept their emotions and control impulsive behaviors, which significantly increases the risk or relapse.

7. A Lack Of Structure

Structure is crucial during recovery. Creating and sticking to a schedule provides stabilization and improves your overall well-being.

A lack of structure and lifestyle change may promote a recurrence of drug or alcohol use.

When people have structure and know what to expect in their day, it reduces anxiety and potential triggers that may lead to relapse.

Predictability can be a source of comfort during the early stages of recovery when everything can feel uncertain.

8. Disconnection From Aftercare

Aftercare, such as sober support groups, can hold individuals accountable and help them recognize the warning signs when the stages of relapse may be occurring.

Studies have shown positive outcomes from being part of support groups. Active engagement in support groups has shown to be a key indicator of sustaining recovery.

Without these supports as a part of someone’s relapse prevention plan, the individual may go back into a state of social isolation and begin to relapse.

9. Unresolved Issues

Everyone living with addiction has suffered some form of damage as a result of it. There are a variety of personal issues commonly experienced by those living with addiction.

Many experience damaged relationships and significantly reduced self-esteem. Without addressing these underlying issues, it is more difficult to sustain addiction recovery.

10. A Lack Of Motivation To Change

When someone is living with a substance use disorder, recovery often requires a lifestyle change that avoids people, places, situations, and other factors that may trigger substance use.

Recovery is a life-long event and can be uncomfortable. It is natural to want to avoid discomfort, and letting go of unhealthy patterns is difficult.

Motivation is crucial to sustaining sobriety and can predict the success of recovery.

Ask How Spring Hill Can Help Support Your Recovery

If a family member is experiencing relapse or is just beginning their recovery journey, we can help. Contact Spring Hill Recovery Center to learn more about available treatment options.

  1. Columbia University Department of Psychiatry https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/mental-health-and-substance-use-disorders-often-go-hand-hand-both-must-be-addressed/
  2. Frontiers in Psychology https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1253541/full/
  3. Narconon https://www.narconon.org/drug-rehab/relapse-factors/problems.html/
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery/
  5. National Institutes of Health (NIH) https://smokefree.gov/challenges-when-quitting/cravings-triggers/know-your-triggers/
  6. National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK571073/
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  15. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/tip-35-pep19-02-01-003.pdf/
  16. United States Department of Justice https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs7/7343/index.htm/

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

Published on: February 13, 2024

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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