How to Prevent a Drug Relapse

It is common for people who have managed to stop using drugs to relapse into their addiction again. According to a study done by JAMA, the risk of relapse in substance use disorder cases is as high as 40 to 60 percent. For this reason, the methods on how to prevent a drug relapse is a crucial part of rehab programs. Recognizing the process of relapse and the ways to avoid addiction relapse is taught during treatment programs so that the individual has the techniques and support systems in place to not become addicted again.

Stages of Relapse

Relapse does not occur all at once, but rather as a process. The three stages of relapse are the emotional, mental and physical stages. By noticing these stages, relapse prevention techniques for substance abuse can be used to stop the process from continuing and leading to substance abuse again.

During the emotional relapse stage, the individual has not yet starting to think about using again but their behaviors and emotions are creating a situation where they might start thinking about substance abuse again. The signs that a person is going through the emotional relapse stage include anger, anxiety, intolerance, isolation, not asking for help and mood swings. By noticing the signs at this early stage of relapse, the individual is able to employ relapse prevention techniques for substance abuse that were learned at rehab, such as reaching out for help and using techniques to calm themselves from the stress and anxiety they are experiencing.

The next stage of relapse is the mental relapse stage. During this time, the individual may begin to think about what it would be like to use drugs again. The person’s mind is at odds as a part of them wants to use again while the other part is fighting it. The signs that a person has entered into this stage include seeing friends that still abuse drugs, glamorizing past substance abuse, lying to others and even starting to plan when you might relapse based on other people’s schedules.

The final stage of relapse is the physical stage. The physical relapse stage is when a person is on their way to their dealer and about to start using again. At this point in the process of relapse, it is hard to avoid full relapse. Without utilizing the ways to avoid addiction relapse in the earlier stages, a physical relapse is highly likely.

How to Prevent a Drug Relapse from Occurring

The most important aspect of how to prevent a drug relapse is in noticing when you are at risk of relapse. At White Sands Treatment Center, patients are taught how to manage their relapse triggers through the use of activities such as art, music or hobbies. By managing the emotions and being part of support groups, recovering addicts reduce their risk of drug abuse. For a person who experiencing a particularly difficult time, coming into a rehab center for a one-on-one therapy session or group support can help to normalize the person’s emotional experience to a more manageable form.

Furthermore, avoiding old habits and patterns of behavior such as visiting places where drug abuse occurs and avoiding friends who still abuse drugs can make relapse prevention easier. It is about starting a new way of life – a life that does not follow the same patterns that led the individual to their drug abuse.

The methods on how to prevent a drug relapse are easy to follow, but ultimately, it is up to the individual to employ them in their life. Finding support through 12-step programs or supportive family or friends can assist in the long-term recovery of an individual.


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.