The Three Stages of Substance Abuse Relapse and Relapse Prevention Strategies

Posted on: January 22, 2021 by in Addiction Treatment
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Relapse is a defined as deterioration in someone’s state of health after a temporary improvement. In the instance of a drug or alcohol relapse, a person who has abstained from substance abuse relapses when they begin abusing substances again.

The potential for someone to experience a substance abuse relapse is always there, you can sometimes unknowingly begin taking steps toward a relapse weeks or even months before actually drinking or using drugs. There could be certain feelings, thoughts, or events that can trigger your urge for drugs or alcohol.

First Stage of Relapse: Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse is often the first stage of relapse. This is when someone is considering using again. They can experience negative emotional responses, moodiness, and/or anger.

Here are some signs:

  • Isolating themselves
  • Focusing on others’ problems
  • Poor eating habits
  • Bad sleeping habits
  • Poor self-care

Second Stage of Relapse: Mental Relapse

Mental relapse typically happens next. This is mostly due to the lack of self-care that is happening during the emotional stage. When someone stays in that stage too long, they start to feel uncomfortable and just want to escape. Their cognitive resistance to relapse diminishes and the need for that escape increases.

Here are some signs:

  • Craving drugs or alcohol
  • Bargaining
  • Lying
  • Planning a relapse
  • Looking for relapse opportunities

Third Stage of Relapse: Physical Relapse

Finally, the physical relapse happens. This stage is when a person begins using again. Once an individual has had one drink or drug use, it will lead to an obsessive or uncontrollable thinking about using and doing so. Most of the time this part of relapse is a window of opportunity.

Prevention Strategies

There are prevention strategies that you can follow to help you learn how to understand and recognize the signs of relapse and avoid or correct them before you even start:

  • Reach out for help
  • Attend self-help groups
  • Avoid triggers
  • Engage in self-help
  • Set healthy boundaries

Call to Action

If you or a loved one have or are currently experiencing any of the stages of relapse, please know that there is help out there for you. No relapse is too big to recover from. The sooner you take the steps to intervene, the easier it is to get back on track. Don’t be discouraged. You can get ahead of this.

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