The path to recovery from addiction is not easy; no matter how dedicated you are to change for the better, there will be situations and objects that compel you to relapse. 

Now that you’re out of rehab and back to a sober life with friends and family, you must have realized that stressful situations are bound to trigger the urge to use again. 

According to research by Recovery village, out of 2,136 adults attempting to stop alcohol addiction, 32.3% experienced a complete relapse within the first year of quitting; only 29.4% didn’t relapse at all. 

Cigarettes, Ashtray, Ash, Smoking, Nicotine

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So, there is no denying that complete recovery isn’t a walk in the park. It requires persistent self-control, and the first step to avoiding relapse is identifying personal triggers. 

When you recognize what compels you to consider reverting to substance use, you can make a conscious effort to avoid it. 

Although these vary between individuals, we will now identify common addiction relapse triggers addicts experience most often.

1.  Negative emotions

Drugs are known to release feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin, known for relieving pain and boosting positive emotions. 

Addicts who have experienced such relief following drug use consider retaking them when feeling sad, lonely, guilty, or upset to escape negative emotions. 

Research claims that people who reported being sad were more likely than others to smoke at any point in life. There was also a correlation between smoking relapse and sadness.

Relapse prevention training in most treatment interventions focuses on identifying such negative emotions and finding healthy ways of coping. 

At The Palm Beach Institute, patients are taught ways of combating such relapse triggers through various treatment options, including inpatient, outpatient detox, and partial hospitalization.  

2.  Stress

Substance use is usually a maladaptive mechanism used by addicts to cope with stressful situations. Whether chronic or acute, stress is one of the leading triggers to addiction relapse. 

Stressful scenarios are common among cocaine and opioid addicts before relapse or drug-seeking behavior. 

Stress causes changes in the brain’s reward systems and increases a person’s vulnerability to drug addiction and relapse.

Some stressful situations are preventable by a change in lifestyle, but not entirely. There are a variety of conditions that could stress you out, whether it is an upcoming test, a job interview, or something more severe like a loved one’s chronic illness. 

How you deal with it is what matters most. Practice deep breathing, mindfulness, catharsis, and healthy distractions in stressful situations.

3.  Recalling the positive effects of substance use

Steer clear of thinking about former drug use in any way. You are likely to end up reminiscing about how a specific drug nulled the pain and caused a feeling of euphoria and serenity. 

Even though it was temporary, thinking about it could encourage you to experience that feeling one last time. Unfortunately, it won’t end there and will have a domino effect.

Drugs are known to activate the brain’s pleasure or reward center and produce feelings of pleasure. Everyday activities that you enjoy have a similar rewarding effect; this feeling encourages you to use drugs again. 

Similarly, drugs release dopamine and produce the drive to engage in substance use again and again. Recalling those feelings make such pleasure-seeking maladaptive behaviors more likely.

4.  Situations or people associated with prior drug use

Former drug partners and suppliers, or the places where you previously consumed drugs, will remind you of the experience and positive effects of taking the substance. 

It could be a particular neighborhood, a club, or a friend’s house. Being in a place where drugs are easily accessible can push you into the ‘just one more time’ trap. 

Reminders of your previous life can induce feelings you might succumb to, so avoid all such places and people. 

Most treatment interventions for addiction begin by asking patients to list all the people, places, objects, or scents associated with their substance use.

5.  Overconfidence in progress towards recovery

When you achieve significant progress in recovery, it can cause complacency, raising a red flag. Very soon, you might assume that you’re strong enough to control drug use and that taking it just once won’t cause a complete relapse. 

But that’s where you’re wrong. If you use drugs again, you become careless, one thing leads to another, and everything spirals out of control.

Keep note of your attitudes and look for signs of overconfidence. You could be becoming ignorant of relapse prevention strategies, thinking that one drink won’t hurt, skipping important follow-up sessions, and becoming complacent. 

Ego is a terrible thing for recovering addicts; it can cause you to lower your defenses against the urge to relapse.

Final words

There are likely to be plenty of hurdles you need to look out for on the path to recovery from addiction. 

It could be a simple sight of a syringe or wine glass or life stressors; either way, be vigilant regarding the people, places, or things that remind you of drug use. 

You are likely to encounter negative emotions, stress, and memories of past experiences with substances at some point. 

It would be best for you to steer clear of all such triggers wherever possible and develop strong defences to avoid relapse for unavoidable situations.