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Signs of a Drug Relapse

For most people, signs of a drug relapse will begin with the return of the core self-defeating beliefs that they held about themselves while they were in the throes of their drug or alcohol addiction. Something inside of a former addict may begin to shift during the drug recovery process , and they will no longer feel the self-confidence that they experienced while going through treatment at the drug rehab center; thus, they may no longer feel worthy of having all of the good things that are connected with their sobriety. It is at this point, that the person in recovery may begin to feel that they are not capable of doing what needs to be done in order to maintain their sobriety.

One of the major signs of a drug relapse occurs when a former addict's dysfunctional beliefs are reactivated; consequently they can begin to experience many negative feelings that will appear to be totally out of place with their new found recovery. The former drug rehab patient will attempt to repress these self defeating thoughts, by trying to just push them out of their mind; it is at this point, that the individual's addictive logic will tell them that they must reach for something that will make this pain go away. A person that is in the initial stages of recovery for addiction will have an intense urge to blot out painful thoughts; thus, awakening the echoes of the individual's addictive past, and reminding them of how easy it used to be to medicate with drugs or alcohol. The former addict may then begin to glorify this past, while denying or minimizing the painful negative effects that were related to their substance abuse problem.

Signs of a drug relapse will often include denial about all of the negative effects of addiction and magical thinking about how wonderful it was to get high; it is at this point that a former addict will begin to deny that there is anything good about being sober. They will tell themselves that being high on drugs worked so well for them in the past, that using again will somehow magically fix all of their current problems. In no time, this addictive logic will create an environment in which a former addict will feel justified about backsliding.

Some signs of a drug relapse that indicate that a relapse may be imminent, can often be as subtle as an individual in recovery for substance abuse feeling irritable or becoming extremely tired from a lack of sleep. Other drug relapse warning signs may be unique to an each individual in recovery and will commonly include various changes in their behaviors and moods; many of these specific changes have commonly been referred to as a "drug relapse signature."

Many individuals may exhibit their own unique signs of a drug relapse, that may include, but will not necessarily be limited to, some of the most common signs which are listed below:

  • -appearing to be anxious or worried
  • -seeming depressed or unhappy
  • -appearing to feel unsafe or threatened
  • -acting paranoid and thinking that people are talking about them
  • -acting irritated, quick tempered or being openly aggressive
  • -have obvious problems with concentration
  • -dramatic changes in their eating or appetite
  • -talking about taking drugs or drinking
  • - noticeable changes in sleeping patterns
  • -withdrawing socially -isolating themselves from loved ones
  • -feeling anxious about going out socially or about going to work
  • -talking about hearing voices
  • -experiencing disordered thoughts
  • -having extreme mood swings-becoming overly excited or acting high
  • -feeling suicidal , is commonly reported to be one of the most common signs of a drug relapse
  • -romanticizing about past social events where they would get high
  • -playing music or TV very loud

Signs of a drug relapse are different for every person that is in recovery for a drug or alcohol addiction problem, so it is important to work out which signs may be relevant to you; doing this with someone who knows you well, like a family member or a close friend can be extremely beneficial. It is even more important to have a plan of what to do should any of these signs appear. Sometimes, a loved one will recognize the signs of a drug relapse, before the individual in recovery does; when this occurs, they should approach the individual about their observations. Many times what may appear to be signs of a drug relapse will only be indications that a former addict is being negatively impacted by a stressful situation. It is at this point, that the person in recovery and their loved ones should take the time to deal with the stressful situation as a group, by taking immediate action to avoid a potential relapse

When a former addict appears to be feeling off-center, out-of-focus, or just plain confused, these situations can often be signs of a drug relapse. A loved one should not avoid talking to the individual in recovery about why they may appear to be out of sorts. The friend or family member may suggest that the former addict begins to keep a written journal; oftentimes, listing on paper what is going on in their lives can help the individual in recovery to be more objective about their particular situation. A person who is in the initial stages of recovery for a drug addiction will often be ruled solely by their thoughts and feelings; thus, writing these thoughts down on paper may give them a greater degree of clarity.

Knowing the most common drug relapse symptoms can help loved ones to take immediate action upon recognizing these behaviors. Listed below are some of the most common signs of a drug relapse:

Noticeable Change in Attitude - One of the most common signs of a drug relapse are when a former addict makes the decision that participating in their recovery program is just not as important as it was in the initial stages of recovery. They may begin to return to what many 12-step programs refer to as "stinking thinking"; it is as this point that the former addict may began to entertain unhealthy or addictive thoughts. When a former addict is going through an episode of "stinking thinking", loved ones will often begin to feel that something is wrong with the person, but may not be able to identify exactly what it is.

Elevated Stress Levels - Predictably, obvious signs of a drug relapse can rear their ugly head when an elevated level of stress is present; this increase in stress in the former addict's life could be due to a major change in circumstances or because they have allowed a series of little things to build up. Returning to the "real world" after a stint at a residential drug rehab center can often present many stressful situations. The danger signs of a drug relapse will often appear when a person who is recovering from an addiction overreacts to those situations. A former addict should be especially mindful if they start to experience extreme positive/negative feelings or mood swings.

Recurrence of Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)- Anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and memory loss can continue long after an addict has successfully completed their drug treatment program; this condition is commonly referred to as post acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) and many of the characteristics of this condition are similar to the signs of a drug relapse. Post acute withdrawal symptoms are particularly dangerous in terms of a potential drug relapse, because an individual in recovery may be tempted to self-medicate with drugs in order to ease some of the uncomfortable symptoms that accompany this condition.

Changes in Daily Routines- One of the most common signs of a drug relapse is when a former drug rehab patient begins to change the daily routine that they developed in early sobriety. These structured routines have been put in place to help an individual in recovery to replace their compulsive drug using behaviors with other healthy alternatives.

Social Breakdown - One of the primary signs of a drug relapse is that a person may start to feel uncomfortable around others and will begin to make excuses so that they do not have to socialize. A person that is recovering from a drug addiction problem may suddenly stop hanging around sober friends and begin to withdraw from family members; additionally, the person in recovery may suddenly stop going to their support group meetings or discontinue the aftercare plan that their drug treatment center has provided.

Loss of Structure -One of the most obvious signs of a drug relapse occurs when a person in recovery from addiction begins ignore their personal hygiene and starts to sleep late many days of the week. When a person is newly sober, structure is vital part of the drug recovery process.

Loss of Judgment - One of the most noticeable signs of a drug relapse is when a former drug user begins to have difficulty making decisions and when they start to openly make unhealthy ones. A newly recovered addict may experience some difficulty managing their feelings and emotions during the initial stages of drug recovery, but consistently making unhealthy choices could be a sign that a drug relapse may be right around the corner. This type of behavior is normal and to be expected in the initial stages of drug recovery; additionally, a person that is new to recovery may sometimes become overwhelmed for no apparent reason, due to all of the changes that are taking place. It is important that loved ones do not judge a former addict during periods of uncertainty; instead, they should be supportive and acknowledge all of the positive changes that the person has made.

Becoming Defensive When Someone Points Out Changes in Behaviors-One of the most common tell-tale signs of a drug relapse signs is a defensive and self-righteous attitude; this occurs when a former addict becomes uncomfortable as others begin to notice their movement back toward a way of living that brought about nothing but misery.

Drug Relapse - One of the most serious signs of a drug relapse is when a former addict attempts controlled, "social" or short-term drug use; because they will quickly lose control again, they will immediately begin to experience overwhelming shame and guilt.

If signs of a drug relapse are left unchecked, they will eventually lead to a full blown relapse, as most newly recovering addicts will instinctively relate "relief" from life's pain to using drugs, rather than "going to any lengths", for sobriety; thus, the initial signs of a drug relapse need to be recognized and dealt with as soon as possible.

Many individuals that are in the initial stages of drug recovery may encounter "stuck points" during their recovery process; but, when they occur, they should be recognized and dealt with as they can often serve as major warning signs of a drug relapse. Former addicts should not get discouraged when they encounter these "stuck points", as recovery from substance abuse is a long-term, skill-building process. Recovery from addiction is not an event that happens instantly; instead it requires that a former addict consistently continues to take positive sobriety-oriented action steps. Recovery initially begins the moment an individual recognizes they have a problem with addictive drug use; but the drug recovery process will not formally begin to take shape until the person begins to develop healthy new behavior patterns, which includes no longer using addictive chemicals.

Relapse does not just happen out of the blue, but the most obvious signs of a drug relapse will generally follow a brief period of irrational thinking and reactions; these reactions are generally based on how the former addict sees life, (thinking), and how they choose to react to their emotions, (feelings). It is easy to see how reacting to thoughts and emotions could easily take a person who has recovered from an addiction in a direction that could prove hazardous to their drug recovery process.