Statistics say that more than 85 percent of people relapse after receiving treatment in the first year of their recovery. A relapse is defined as the worsening of a condition that had previously improved. Drug relapse is a recurrence of compulsive behavior or returning to drug or alcohol use after a period of being sober or abstinent. Relapse doesn’t happen suddenly; there are usually warning signs that occur before the actual relapse occurs.
What is a Relapse Trigger?
Drugs hijack a person’s brain and rewire it. For example, with long-term use, the dopamine neurotransmitters in our brain are often triggered, producing cravings in the addict. If the addict gives in to these triggers and cravings and uses drugs after a period of abstinence, it is called a relapse. A trigger reminds the brain of the euphoria of past substance use and causes cravings for that substance. Relapse triggers can be people, places, or things, and they can also be mental, emotional, social, or environmental.
HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)
Common relapse triggers often come in the form of the acronym HALT; HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. If a person isn’t familiar with this, they may think it’s goofy or not a big deal, but to feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired is a culprit of unhealthy behavior. This will trigger the brain and set an individual up for a relapse quickly.
5 of The Most Common Triggers To Relapse
The number one most common trigger to relapse is stress. Substance use is a maladaptive way of coping. The National Library of Medicine “How does stress increase risk of drug abuse and relapse?” states:
The notion that stress leads to drug abuse in vulnerable individuals and relapse in addicts is not new. Most major theories of addiction postulate that stress plays an important role in increasing drug use and relapse. Several animal studies and some human laboratory studies have shown that stress exposure enhances drug self-administration. Although clinical observations suggest that exposure to stress increases drug use, and is associated with craving and relapse in addicts, human research in this area is largely correlational and contradictory. Preclinical research has shown that stress, in addition to the drug itself, plays a key role in perpetuating drug abuse and relapse. However, the mechanisms underlying this association in humans remain unclear. A greater understanding of how stress may perpetuate drug abuse will likely have a significant impact on both prevention and treatment development in the field of addiction. (NIH)
Lifestyle changes and positive ways to manage stress can be helpful. For example, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, time management, and healthy behaviors like exercise and eating healthy can reduce stress. Also, talking with a therapist or counselor is a good way to help you cope with stressful situations. The second most common trigger to relapse is people and places. Older adults in your life and places that you were around when in active addiction can be huge triggers. It’s important to stay away from these and have a plan in place if any situations arise. Work with your counselor or therapist, so you are prepared.
More Common Triggers To Relapse
The third most common relapse trigger is negativity or challenging emotions. Stay positive and remove yourself from anyone and anything negative. Negativity will take the life out of you; don’t have any part of it. When faced with challenging emotions, pray, journal your feelings, or meditate. The fourth most common relapse trigger is things or objects. Your senses can play a big part when it comes to relapse. Hearing a song, smelling a certain scent, or seeing an object part of your addiction can all be triggered. Be prepared and again have a plan in place in case a situation arises. The last most common trigger to relapse is celebrations. Times of celebration can be hard. You may see other people drinking or using and think you can have just one. You may feel like you are in control, but you realize you aren’t once you are in the situation. Don’t put yourself in these situations. Like we stated a couple of times above, be prepared. Having a relapse prevention plan is vital in early recovery. Work with your therapist or counselor to develop a plan.
Start Treatment for Addiction at Evoke Wellness MA TODAY!
Evoke Wellness MA offers evidence-based addiction treatment that caters to the individual needs of each patient. We are the premier medical detox, acute treatment, and stabilization facility on the South Shore. We provide comprehensive, integrated care for men, women, and families, geared towards setting the foundation for lifelong recovery. Have you had enough? Are you ready to get your life back? Our addiction specialists are here around the clock. Give us a call anytime.