What is Relapse? The Best Relapse Prevention Plan

Most times, people momentarily quit the use of drugs, alcohol, and even tobacco, but begin using them again no matter how hard they try to stop using them.  This return to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco is termed a relapse. So, individuals who are recovering from the addiction of any kind usually have one or more relapses in the process. But is this what relapse is all about? Not really.

What is Relapse Anyway?

Drug RelapseRelapse is the progressive process of becoming so abnormal or dysfunctional in recovery that engaging is self-medication with drugs and alcohol seems to be the best alternative.

Going back to alcohol or drugs again is the worst option for people who are in recovery. This extent of damage caused by such return is usually higher compared to the earlier stage. Most individuals in this regard will be able to garner the strength to stop their addiction while others will rapidly fall back.

What is an alcohol or drug relapse?

An alcohol or drug relapse is the recurrence of a health issue during the addiction recovery process. A relape is typically caused by exposure to risk factors that trigger alcohol or drug abuse. Relapse is common among recovering addicts and can’t always be avoided. However, it can be prevented by taking certain precautions.

In most cases, those individuals who return to their substance abuse will hardly stop it again. By extension, this means that their return to addiction becomes a lifestyle that lingers throughout their existence. The good news is that an individual who relapses can still re-establish and build a better life full of success while in recovery.

Alcohol and Drug Relapse

An alcohol or drug relapse is the recurrence of any health issue that has gone into recovery. Drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that its addiction is subject to periods of relapse. However, in the recovery process, a person may likely be exposed to some risk factors that increase their chances of returning alcohol or drug abuse.

Alcohol and drug relapse though common are never unavoidable. The length of relapse period can be shortened by taking the necessary steps of drug relapse prevention in order to reduce the risk of further troubles arising from substance abuse.

The Relapse Cycle for Alcohol or Drugs

A relapse cycle does not happen automatically; it is rather a process. This points to the fact that there are several warning signs and other factors that show up at the early stage. So, understanding how to identify these signs can help to prevent a relapse.

These signs of alcohol or drug relapse can be divided into the following three stages, namely:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional

Following these stages, it is quite easier to return to substance abuse several weeks or months after the early signs of emotional relapse.

Signs of Alcohol or Drug Relapse

What are the signs of a relapse?

The signs of an alcohol or drug relapse include:

  • Going back to environments where alcohol and substance abuse is common
  • Engaging in damaging and destructive thoughts
  • Spending more time alone and avoiding activities
  • Neglecting healthy habits
  • Recurrence of depression and anxiety
  • Signs of compulsive behaviors

The breaking of abstinence in alcohol or drug can be seen as a relapse and it is such a long as well as painful process. However, substance abuse is a contributing factor to relapse and other signs of alcohol or drug relapse are as follow:

  • Going back to unhealthy behaviors as well as environments
  • Engaging in damaging and destructive thoughts
  • Staying alone and avoiding activities
  • Neglecting of healthy habits
  • Recurrence of depression and anxiety
  • Compulsive behaviors

In as much as a person is free from addictive substances, such a person is still at the risk of a relapse substance abuse can develop at a late stage in the relapse process.

Difference Between Slip and Relapse

Slip and relapse are negative occurrences but they are different in the level of impact they usually have on an individual’s life. So, what’s the difference?

Slip occurs when a person returns to alcohol or drugs after a period of soberness and stops again almost immediately. It is often characterized by when a person probably returned to their former behavior may be for a moment but realized it was a mistake. So as soon as they come back to their senses, they return to life in recovery.

A relapse is more serious and severe than a slip because it indicates that such a person has returned to the former state of addiction.  It is a process that progresses from slip and relapse lasts for days or even longer. Furthermore, it may mean that the current plan to avoid addiction completely has been abandoned.

The effect is that the individual might not have another chance to give up alcohol or drugs.  So, if the person relapses, they can subconsciously return to their previous condition if they don’t stop quickly.

The million-dollar question is: how can one recover from and prevent relapse in all its form?

A Comprehensive Relapse Prevention Plan

The answer is not far-fetched. It is important to understand that no individual can recover perfectly from relapse, and there will be slips and relapses during the recovery process. This scenario is not abnormal but expected. The answer to the above question is to develop an effective, complete relapse prevention plan.

How to prevent relapse?

You can prevent a relapse by creating prevention plans such as:

  • A list of recovery behaviors and plans
  • A list of risk situations that can cause relapses
  • Strategies to recognize and treat the warning signs of a relapse

The perfect relapse prevention plan is hereby outlined below:

  1. Make a List of Recovery Behaviors and Plans

So far, there are strategies and behaviors that have been useful in your recovery such as:

  • Keeping a food schedule and log
  • Eating meals regularly
  • Food shopping on a regular basis
  • Activities around self-care

These regimens which are used currently can be useful in the nearest future; they should be referred to when there is any likelihood of trouble.

  1. Make a List of High-Risk Situations

Some risk situations favor slips and relapses. Such situations are:

  • Becoming defeated by emotions and feelings
  • Change in schedule such as going away to school
  • Health challenges
  • Marital or social issues
  • Loss of a loved one
  1. Understand the Early Warning Signs

The early warning signs that are relevant to the individual should be understood and the strategy that will help in coping with that particular sign and get the individual back on track should be written down. Also, making plans ahead of time could be helpful.

A relapse prevention plan based on working with a professional addiction specialist is the best and it should be mapped out in writing for optimum result and long term benefit. However, it must be backed up with the following two strong components:

  • An all-inclusive strong support system and willpower that consist of the family, friends, and experts.
  • Willingness that will guard against momentary slip into a return to alcohol or drug relapse.


Learning what relapse is, and how you can prevent it is one thing, acting upon the plan is another. But if you have the will to quit, you have what it takes to deal with relapses and slips. Stay strong, stay positive, that’s the only way to enjoy the life to its fullest.