Illustrated infographic with "roadmap" depicting addiction relapse warning signs.

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Relapse Warning Signs

Drug addiction is a disease and often presents as a cycle of sobriety and relapse. There are physical and emotional indicators of relapse that, if recognized early, can help save lives. Unfortunately, addiction is a chronic—and, for many sufferers, lifelong—condition. The road to rehabilitation is bumpy and relapse is common. If someone in your life has struggled with addiction in the past, there are some crucial warning signs to look out for that may be signaling a relapse is imminent. (3)

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Skipping therapy or meetings

  • 40% – 60% of those struggling with substance abuse who relapse at least once (2)

Bottling up or not showing emotion

Poor eating and sleeping habits

Declining hygiene


  • Users of certain drugs are actually more likely to relapse than others. For example, heroin addicts looking to get clean often relapse 8 to 10 times before maintaining sobriety. (2)

Relaxing on self-imposed rules

Expressed drug cravings

Romanticizing past drug use or experiences

  • Talking about how to use in a “controlled” way is a clear relapse warning sign. Time is also a factor. Addicts who stay clean for five years or more only have a 15% chance of relapse. (2)

Constant lying

Talking or meeting with past friends who still use

  • Relapses often lead to overdoses, which is a leading cause of death in the U.S. There were 64,070 recorded drug overdose deaths in 2016 (1)

Five Tips to Resist Drug Relapse

If you recognize these relapse warning signs in yourself or someone else, it’s not too late to seek help. Consider these five tips.

  1. Make relaxation a part of your recovery.
  2. Take your recovery one day at a time, and don’t make too many promises for the future.
  3. Distract yourself every time you feel the urge to use.
  4. Tell someone every time you have an urge to use so you are accountable to others.
  5. Make self-care a priority.

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