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Diseases & Conditions

What Are the Warning Signs of a Relapse?

By on 09/13/2019

Addiction is difficult to overcome – whether it is an addiction to alcohol, drugs or a harmful behavior such as cutting or gambling. That’s why relapses are relatively common when someone is fighting to overcome an addiction.

In many cases, it may take several tries to kick a habit completely. Even if a person is successful in beating addiction, a relapse may occur weeks, months or years after initial success. But would you know if someone you care about is experiencing a relapse in their efforts to fight addiction?

It’s not always easy for others to tell if someone is about to have a relapse or is currently experiencing one. With some addictions, there will be obvious signs. It’s fairly easy, for example, to notice if an alcoholic is intoxicated. But with other addictions, or depending on how good a person is at hiding what they’re doing, the signs are more subtle. And even if you suspect something, you may not be sure if it’s related to a potential relapse or something else.  

Here are some warning signs that may indicate someone is experiencing a relapse:

  • The person voices doubt about recovery. If a person starts making comments like “this isn’t working” or they reminisce about their past as though the addiction was something good in their life, that’s a red flag.
  • The person is exposing themselves to triggers. A drug addict trying to get clean shouldn’t be hanging around with people who are still abusing. An alcoholic shouldn’t go to the bars they frequented when they were drinking. If you notice this happening, it may be a sign the person is back to their old habits.
  • The person is uncomfortable around others. If someone knows their family, friends or co-workers will be able to figure out that they’re relapsing, they’re likely to withdraw from social situations and interactions. They may also appear more stressed than usual.
  • The person stops participating in activities meant to help them recover. If the person was going to a counselor or support group for help with their addiction but they no longer show interest in continuing to seek help, it’s possible they’re about to relapse or may have already done so.

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Date Last Reviewed: July 30, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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