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Planning for Alcohol or Drug Relapse

Table of Contents


Stopping substance use, whether you use alcohol or illegal or prescription drugs, is very hard. Very few people succeed the first time they try to stop. A lapse or relapse is likely.

A lapse or relapse doesn't mean that you or your treatment has failed. It may mean that you just slipped up. If this is true for you, accept the mistake and move on. Try to find out why you relapsed. Then make changes in your life so that it won't happen again. You also may need more treatment, another type of treatment, or more time in support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous.

You might have several relapses, whether you have tried to quit substance use on your own or have had treatment. As time goes on, relapses usually occur less often and are shorter. Some people never have a relapse.

What can trigger a relapse?

Triggers are things that might cause you to have a relapse from alcohol or illegal or prescription drugs. They may include:

It may be helpful to write down your triggers and think about them. Are some more likely to cause a relapse than others? Rate your triggers from most likely to cause a relapse to least likely to cause a relapse.

Now you can make a plan to manage your triggers. You might need to avoid certain situations or people or stay away from a favorite place or activity. If you know you can't avoid a trigger, bring a friend with you for support.

How can you deal with a relapse?

If you begin using drugs or alcohol again, follow these steps.

Credits for Planning for Alcohol or Drug Relapse

Current as of: August 2, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Peter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health

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