Heroin Relapse Signs: How to tell if someone has relapsed on Opiates

Heroin is a derivative of the painkiller morphine and is the most commonly abused opiate drug. Although there are effective treatment programs available, relapse is a very real and dangerous possibility. Methods to prevent relapse begin as soon as the addict starts a treatment program and should be practiced throughout the person’s lifetime.  Why is heroin so hard to kick? Heroin and other opiates work on specific molecules in the brain to produce a feeling of sedation and euphoria. Each dose of heroin lasts about four to five hours.  Heroin and opiate users can develop a tolerance to the drug quickly; requiring them to take larger doses each time they use to achieve the same desired effect. Physical dependence on heroin can begin as early as one to two weeks of daily use. Heroin addicts are at a great risk for an overdose that could result in death whenever they use. Heroin addicts endure severe withdrawals symptoms when they try to quit on their own, making it nearly impossible to do without medical assistance. Heroin relapse signs are not difficult to pick up on if you are a loved one of a heroin addict. If you want to know how to tell if someone has relapsed on opiates, become familiar with these telltale signs:

  • The addict will reminisce about his or her past drug use fondly. This is one of the common relapse warning signs. Because drugs are often used while the individual is engaged in a social situation and having fun, fond memories may sometimes be associated with drug use.
  • The addict will show signs of believing that he or she could use heroin again without getting addicted next time around. Heroin relapse signs like this one shed light on the dangerous compulsions that are a part of living with an addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse calls addiction a chronic, relapsing brain disease, and compulsions are part of this disease. The addict in recovery will need to be able to recognize these impulses and use coping mechanisms taught in treatment to avoid falling victim to them.
  • The addict will start reconnecting with old friends that they spent time with when they were using. It is not uncommon to miss friends that you no longer interact with. However, in order to sustain recovery, the addict must create a new environment that is healthy and surrounded by individuals that do not use drugs.
  • The addict will begin to signs of behavioral or attitude changes. The addict may appear depressed or may have stopped participating in his or her after care treatment plan for recovery, such as group meetings or other therapies. Relapses occur when the addict is feeling down, embarrassed, hurt, or any myriad of emotions that are uncomfortable to deal with. It is important to have the tools to cope with these feelings to avoid trying to “escape” them by using drugs again.
  • Changes in relationships. If an addict loses focus on maintaining personal connections with people who are supportive of their recovery, they are risking isolation, which could lead to relapse. Arguing with friends more often, lying to family or those that are close to them, showing annoyance or irritation at loved ones who try to help, and spending less time with friends or family than usual are all red flags. The addict should get in touch with their sponsor, go to a therapy session or group meeting to figure things out and sustain recovery.
  • The addict is displaying withdrawal symptoms. This is one of the major relapse warning signs. If symptoms of withdrawal are being observed, the best approach in this situation is to state your concerns and suggest that the addict goes into a treatment program again. Learn about withdrawal symptoms from MedlinePlus, which is part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Becoming familiar with heroin relapse signs is important for prompt intervention. Learning how to tell if someone has relapsed on opiates is essential for observing relapse as soon as it occurs. If relapse warning signs indicate the individual is using again, seek advice from a medical professional that specializes in substance abuse disorders for guidance on how to proceed in getting help for your loved one as soon as possible. Working together with your loved one to prevent relapse and understanding addiction will go far toward maintaining long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.