Are Relapses Common After Rehab?

People who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction will often seek treatment from rehabilitation facilities for their substance use disorders. Even for those that manage to complete a treatment program at our rehab facility in Bali, their addiction remains a lifelong battle and they will need to tap into the coping skills and tools they have learned to remain sober.  However, there is always a risk of relapse during or after going through a recovery program. With substance use disorders, patients will go through relapsing-remitting cycles. When they relapse, it means the symptoms of addiction have returned. Relapses are however not inevitable for all people that have addiction problems.  Between 40-60% of addicts will relapse. This means you have just as good a chance of never returning to your addiction as you do of relapsing. To help improve the chances that you will not relapse, it is important to recognise the risk that it could happen and focus on what you need to do to prevent it. 

How common is Relapse after Rehab, and how can it be avoided?

The US National Drug Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that the relapse rate while in recovery is between 40% to 60%. There are many possible reasons for relapses to occur. This can include:

  • Withdrawal– the severity of withdrawal symptoms while in recovery can greatly vary from person to person. It can be affected by factors such as the type of substance that was being abused, the length and frequency of use, age and more. 
  • Mental Health – when there are underlying mental health problems, it is necessary to seek treatment to address them as well. Where the mental health concerns are not addressed, they can trigger a relapse.
  • Family and friends – those in recovery will sometimes go back to surrounding themselves with family and friends who still indulge in alcohol or substance abuse. Failing to set healthy boundaries and continuing to surround yourself with such people can trigger a relapse. It is vital to find a solid support system that will help keep you accountable. 
  • Self-care – poor self-care can cause your well-being to suffer and increase the chances of a relapse. Self-care can relate to various aspects such as diet, exercise and sleep. Maintaining good physical and mental health through self-care will support your addiction recovery. 

Other reasons can include a failure to make sobriety a priority in your life and failing to be prepared for the challenges of life post-treatment. All these and more can cause a person to weaken and find themselves right back where they started.  It can be demoralising to suffer a relapse. Many people feel ashamed and regretful. They may also feel that they should give up and simply allow the addiction to take over. However, this can compromise their ability to lead a sober drug-free life.  Experiencing a relapse can be a learning opportunity. You get to identify and become more aware of your triggers. Once you can get to the root of your relapse and better refine your relapse prevention plan, you can hopefully get back on the path of sobriety permanently. 

What to do when you suffer a relapse

The majority of relapses occur within 90 days of a person deciding they will abstain from the substance. This is why most rehab programs are designed to last at least 3 months. However, no matter how long your treatment lasted, when relapse occurs, you need to undertake some steps immediately to get back on the right track. 

  • Have a positive mindset – Review your recovery plan and have faith in it and yourself. Surround yourself with supportive people. 
  • Consider your situation – You need to figure out if you need to go back to rehab or if this was an isolated incident and you remain committed to making the adjustment needed to ensure you do not relapse again. If you feel you have gone back to old patterns of abuse, you will likely require inpatient facility care.
  • Therapy – individual or group therapy does often help recovery. You may find that your relapse is due to deeply rooted behaviours or feelings that are often best unravelled with professional help. Talking to a professional can help in figuring out if you need to adjust your treatment approach. 
  • Seek out specialist therapy programs – it may help to find out if there are programs specifically tailored to helping those that have relapsed. These recovery programs can train in relapse prevention skills
  • Cognitive Behaviour therapy – this type of therapy can help determine what triggers played a part in your relapse. It can also help you to figure out how to handle these situations and retain a positive mindset and behaviour pattern. 
  • Support meetings – these can play a crucial role in providing you with the support you need to get back on track. Depending on your situation, you can even increase your attendance to several times a day or week. Sharing and listening to others in the same kind of situation can help inspire and strengthen your resolve and recovery. 

How to avoid relapses

Beyond the aftermath of your relapse, you need to find other long-term coping mechanisms that will help strengthen your recovery. Be aware that certain situations can increase the likelihood of a relapse. The acronym HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. These are situations that can weaken your defences and make it easier to relapse. Here are some best practices you can use to avoid these triggers and attain better health. 

Know your triggers and manage them

Knowing what is likely to lead you back to addiction is important. Identify what kinds of situations, people, and places are likely to lead to a relapse and take steps to keep them out of your life. Where you cannot entirely keep them away, work on establishing firm boundaries so they do not encroach on your sobriety. Avoid events or activities where you know alcohol or drugs may be involved.  Discuss with your therapist or support group about your triggers. Learn what coping skills you can use to avoid and manage these triggers to prevent a relapse. 

Build and tap into your support system

Seek out supportive family and friends who want to help you stick to an abstinent life. Call upon them for support if you have to be involved in an event or activity where alcohol or drugs will be present. They can be your sober companion that helps remind you of your resolve and steer you clear of these dangers. If you feel unable or uncomfortable, do not hesitate to leave.  For further support and to reduce the risk of relapse, also consider participating in a 12-step program. These programs and regular participation in support group meetings have been found to promote long-term sobriety.

Learn to manage stress

Stress can badly impact your mental and physical health. When you are in a weakened state, you become more vulnerable to falling back into old habits, even without the normal triggers being in play. Work to achieve and maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. Look into what positive lifestyle changes you can make to your diet and exercise. Consider incorporating habits like meditation, yoga, journaling, and other creative hobbies that are meaningful and fulfilling to you. 

Evaluate your relationships

Loved ones suffer when they have an addict in their midst. Incidents may also have taken place that resulted in hurt feelings or offence. Where possible, you should try to rebuild these relationships. Having family counselling may help improve communication with loved ones, heal rifts, and identify and resolve any unhealthy family dynamics. 


Working to help others has been found to be beneficial for those in recovery. It helps to improve their mood, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and boosts their self-esteem. They feel they have more purpose in life and can remain more committed to their recovery. You can volunteer at a church, a soup kitchen, or even become a sponsor for another support group member. 


There is always a chance that a relapse may happen. However, you need not focus on this likelihood when you have more important goals in your recovery. Try to stick to your recovery plan, avoid triggers, and aim to make positive changes in your life that will bring out a happier and healthier you.  If a relapse should happen, do not let it drag you down. Mistakes can happen but you can overcome them by taking responsibility, looking for support where you know you get it, and trying to improve your coping mechanisms. Professional help will get you rebounding stronger than ever before so reach out to a rehab facility that can offer quality treatment programs in a safe environment.  If you or someone you know is struggling with relapse or any kind of addiction do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Calm Rehab and a member of the team will be in touch with you.

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