How to Tell if Someone Has Relapsed

Recovery is a difficult journey and a lifelong one at that. Many addicts, over the course of their early recovery, have similar feelings, emotions, and fears. One of those fears is the risk of relapsing. The difficult road it took to get to sobriety can be crushed when you think that there could be a moment when it all goes “down the drain”.

In fact, it is actually common for someone to relapse at some point after getting clean. It is often said in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous that relapse is a part of the recovery journey. Life is a learning process and certainly making mistakes and bouncing back is normal, but you can also get clean and stay clean on the very first try.

has someone relapsed

What is a Relapse?

By the simplest definition, a relapse is when a person returns to using drugs or alcohol after a period of sobriety. Many people recovering from addiction face a consistently high risk of relapse because chronic substance use can result in certain structural and functional brain alterations. These changes persist well beyond the period that sobriety was first obtained.

There are two actual types of relapse, one being the more “traditional” relapse which occurs when a person knowingly uses a drink or a drug to, for example, calm themselves down from a long day at work. The second type of relapse is called “freelapse” which is when someone unintentionally uses a drink or a drug. This could happen when someone is given alcohol when thought that the beverage was non-alcoholic.

There are actually “steps” that a person takes towards a relapse that can be recognized weeks or months in advance. Certain thoughts, feelings, and events may trigger cravings and urge for drugs and alcohol, and, if not properly dealt with, may increase your chances of relapsing.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH):

For some drugs, a relapse can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person stops taking drugs and then takes the amount they used before quitting, they can easily overdose. Their body is no longer used to having the same amount of the drug in its system. An overdose happens when a drug causes serious, harmful symptoms or death.

How Can You Tell if Someone You Care About Has Relapsed?

  • Behavior Changes

We all know how a loved one acted during active addiction and what their demeanor is like in sobriety. In some instances, people may relapse by abusing a different substance, which would alter their personality and appearance differently, but some behaviors are common to all addictions.

  • Money Problems

The most telltale sign is financial difficulties. If the employment situation hasn’t changed and no unexpected expense has arisen, but finances inexplicably have become an issue, it could be because they are supporting a drug or alcohol addiction. Regardless of the specific substance problem, it costs money to fuel those habits.

  • Missing Work, School, Meetings, or other Events

Likewise, if someone cannot account for his or her time or is suddenly failing to meet commitments to others, these are strong indicators something has changed. Any drastic changes that you do not understand or cannot be explained are a red flag. This does not mean 100% someone has relapsed, but your suspicions of relapse are reasonable.

So what do you do after a relapse?

If someone you love or care about has relapsed, it best to let them know that you are always there to help. They might not want to hear it at the time, but considering treatment after a relapse is the most sensible approach.

Garden State Treatment Center is located in the heart of Northern New Jersey and we are one of the premier addiction treatment providers in the area. Garden State Treatment Center is an outpatient and partial care addiction treatment facility that offers nuanced levels of care for individuals struggling with the horrors of substance abuse. It is our explicit goal to help addicted clients rebuild their lives from the inside out and reintegrate themselves back into society.