Relapse Statistics In Recovery

Addiction is a chronic disease, and relapse is a common part of the recovery journey. Many addiction treatment centers offer prevention plans to help people transition back into their everyday lives with a reduced risk of relapse.

Relapse in recovery is a common and challenging aspect of the recovery process for individuals experiencing drug or alcohol use disorders.

For those who experience relapse, it’s important to remember that it’s not indicative of failure, but rather signals that it might be time to reassess and adjust the recovery plan.

What Is Relapse?

Relapse refers to the recurrence of an unwanted behavior after a period of improvement.

In the context of substance abuse or addiction, relapse specifically means returning to drug or alcohol use after achieving abstinence.

Relapse is not solely limited to the physical act of substance use. It can also involve a return to patterns of behavior, thoughts, or emotions associated with addiction.

Relapse can happen at any stage of the recovery journey, and it is important to understand it as a potential part of the process rather than a sign of failure.

Understanding Relapse Statistics

According to studies, 40 to 60 percent of people treated for addiction will relapse within the first year of sobriety. However, the rate of relapse decreases with increased time spent sober.

This positive trend is attributed to the brain’s adaptability and healing abilities, particularly when substances are removed.

Studies reveal that 60 percent of individuals remain substance-free after two years, and the chances of relapse drops to 15 percent after five years.

Research emphasizes the importance of seeking help for alcohol and drug use disorders due to its impact on long-term sobriety.

Those who enter a rehab program have higher rates of sobriety at three years post-treatment than those who did not enter professional treatment for their substance use disorder.

How Common Is Relapse?

Relapse is more common than many people realize. Substance use disorders are chronic conditions, and recovery is a lifelong process.

The likelihood of relapse differs based on the specific substance being abused. Some substances have a higher relapse potential due to their addictive nature and withdrawal symptoms.

Furthermore, the longer a person remains abstinent, the lower their risk of relapse. However, even individuals with years of abstinence may face challenges that increase the risk.

The effectiveness of a person’s treatment also plays a role. Comprehensive, evidence-based programs that address both substance use and underlying issues tend to have better outcomes.

Relapse should be viewed as an opportunity for reassessment and adjustment of the treatment plan rather than a reason for discouragement.

What Factors Influence Relapse Rates?

There are many factors that can influence relapse rates in individuals recovering from drug or alcohol use disorders.

The complexity of addiction and recovery makes it important to consider various elements that can impact the likelihood of relapse.


The likelihood of relapse can differ based on the specific substance that was being abused. Some substances, such as opioids, have a higher relapse potential due to their addictive nature.


Different demographics have been shown to have different rates of relapse.

According to studies, minorities may have higher rates of relapse due to reduced access to care, lack of transportation, and financial barriers.


Exposure to environments, situations, or people associated with past substance use can act as triggers. Identifying and managing these triggers is important for preventing relapse.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders may face a higher risk of relapse if both conditions are not adequately addressed in treatment.

Treatment Engagement

The level of engagement in treatment plays a role in relapse rates. People who actively participate in evidence-based treatments and follow through with aftercare have better outcomes.

Duration of Abstinence

The longer an individual remains abstinent, the lower their risk of relapse. However, even individuals with years of abstinence can still relapse under the right conditions.

Support System

A strong support system can contribute to sustained recovery. Lack of support may increase the risk of relapse.


Aftercare involves ongoing support following the completion of initial substance abuse treatment. People who stay engaged in their aftercare programs are less likely to experience a drug or alcohol relapse.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

During formal treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, people learn relapse prevention strategies that they can use to avoid temptations in their daily lives.

Relapse prevention strategies aim to identify and address potential triggers, enhance coping skills, and create a plan to navigate challenging situations without resorting to substance use.

Develop A Relapse Prevention Plan

Work with a counselor or therapist to create your personalized relapse prevention plan.

This plan should include a detailed list of triggers, coping strategies, and steps to take in case of heightened vulnerability.

Establish realistic and achievable short-term and long-term goals. Celebrate milestones and accomplishments, and use them as motivation to stay committed to your recovery.

Identify Triggers

Recognize personal triggers that may lead to relapse. Triggers can include stress, specific environments, or certain situations. Awareness allows for proactive intervention.

Identify and avoid environments that may pose a high risk for relapse. If certain places or events trigger cravings, it’s important to develop alternative plans.

Coping Skills And Strategies

Learn healthy coping skills to manage stress, cravings, and emotional challenges. This may include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or engaging in hobbies.

Attend Support Groups And Therapy

Regularly participate in support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.

These groups provide a sense of community, understanding, and shared experiences, promoting accountability and support.

Similarly, schedule regular check-ins with your counselor or therapist.

Evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have been shown to reduce rates of relapse and promote long-term recovery.

Maintain A Support System

Build and maintain a strong support system of family, friends, and peers who encourage your recovery journey.
Having conversations with loved ones can help create a supportive environment.

Healthy Lifestyle

Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep. Physical well-being contributes to mental and emotional resilience.

Similarly, practice mindfulness and meditation techniques to stay present and focused. Mindfulness can help manage cravings by promoting self-awareness.

What To Do If You Relapse

Experiencing a relapse can be disheartening, but it’s important to approach the situation with resilience and a commitment to getting back on track.

If you find yourself in a relapse, the first step is to reach out for support. Contact your therapist, a family member, or a trusted friend who understands your journey.

Reflect on the factors that led to the relapse and consider adjusting your alcohol or drug relapse prevention plan accordingly.

It’s essential to take immediate steps to remove yourself from environments or situations that may contribute to continued substance use.

Remember, relapse does not define your recovery, and seeking help can set the stage for renewed progress toward a sober life.

Ask About Starting Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts

If you or a loved one is experiencing relapse, addiction recovery programs can help. Contact our Massachusetts-based recovery center to learn more.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  2. National Library of Medicine: Bookshelf
  3. National Library of Medicine: PubMed
  4. National Library of Medicine: PubMed

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

Published on: January 25, 2024

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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