The Cycle of Alcohol Addiction National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA

Known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms, these symptoms can return during times of stress. They are dangerous because you may be tempted to self-medicate them with alcohol or drugs. Some research has found that 40% to 60% of people dealing with substance abuse disorders relapse within a year. When you are an alcoholic and have achieved sobriety, you are in recovery.

One way to decrease the risk of a relapse is to consider finding new friends who can support your new lifestyle by either choosing not to drink around you, offering up activities that don’t involve alcohol or are in recovery themselves. Another helpful tip is to have a list of responses planned out for when a friend asks you to go out drinking so that you’re not caught off-guard with having to say no. Less-intensive treatment may be an option if this is your first relapse and you are in good physical and mental health, are not at risk Alcohol Relapse for severe withdrawal, and have a sober support system in place. Your treatment team can help you decide whether inpatient, outpatient, or other treatment options are more appropriate for you. Different types of treatment programs offer various levels of care to meet you where you are in your recovery process. If you have already completed a treatment program, you can reach out to your former (or current) treatment providers, such as your therapist, psychiatrist, or medical doctor to get their advice on the next step to take.

Triggers for Alcohol Relapse

About 43 percent of people who did not receive any form of treatment maintained sobriety. It’s sometimes the last obstacle to overcome on the path to alcohol recovery. They either relapse or seek further therapy to prevent future slips.

  • If you’re in a period of mental relapse, one of the best things you can do is work to find strategies to avoid high-risk situations.
  • Alcohol use stimulates the HPA axis and initially stimulates the autonomic systems by provoking sympathetic arousal, followed by depressing such activation (Ehrenreich et al. 1997; Lee and Rivier 1997).
  • Alcoholic patients showed greater activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the ventral striatum, insula, and specific regions of the thalamus and cerebellum during the neutral-relaxing condition (Sinha 2007; Sinha and Li 2007).
  • If you can identify them, you can take action to keep them from progressing into a full-blown relapse.

The mental challenge of this stage is not to let anything make you feel defeated. If you’re ready to make a positive change, here’s what you may want to know about the recovery process. 2The autonomic nervous system is that division of the nervous system which regulates the functions of the internal organs and controls essential and involuntary bodily functions, such as respiration, blood pressure and heart rate, or digestion. You stop attending all meetings with counselors and your support groups and discontinue any pharmacotherapy treatments.

What Can Trigger a Relapse from Alcohol?

A mental health relapse occurs when a person begins experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition that worsen or lead to decreased functioning. For instance, a person who had experienced a period of remission from depression begins feeling hopeless, has a low mood, or has thoughts of death again may have relapsed. Anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and memory loss can continue long after you quit drinking or doing drugs.

Regardless of what led to a relapse, getting back on track quickly gives you the best chance at long-term recovery, rather than waiting until the problem worsens. It is hard to admit to others that you have experienced a relapse, but it is the best thing to do. It is always better to be honest and work on getting the process of recovery started again as quickly as possible. Immediately after a relapse, you should contact your support network to assemble a game plan. If you do not have a network of supportive people, you should try to find one; fortunately, you have options. You may use AA, SMART Recovery, or other support groups to help you in this process.

Growth stage

Some clinicians will divide this stage of relapse into a lapse and then the actual relapse. A relapse is a return to using alcohol in a way that’s out of control. Don’t let this situation or cravings make you feel down or like you haven’t achieved something amazing already. You can work on strengthening your coping skills to move past a mental relapse. Working with a therapist can be helpful during a period of mental relapse. Therefore, a key aspect of recovery is identifying potential triggers and risk factors and avoiding them as much as possible.

Dry drunk behavior means that even though someone hasn’t relapsed, they start acting very similarly to when they were drinking. Alcoholism is defined as a chronic condition that is the most severe version of alcohol abuse. When someone has an alcohol use disorder, they can’t control their drinking and continue to drink even with negative side effects. Alcohol use disorder can be classified based on severity, including mild, moderate, and severe. It’s treatable, but if untreated, it can lead to serious destruction and even death. Relapse is defined as the recurrence of behaviors that indicate a condition or disease is active or worsening.

It is important to be aware of any red flags that may suggest a relapse is forthcoming in order to take counteractive measures to avoid it. Such preventive techniques may include applying better stress management tools or not putting yourself in situations that may trigger cravings. This is a small list, but any of the points on it would be good signs that you may need outside intervention. However, you may find that you need professional treatment and intensive care, such as through an inpatient treatment program. If you aren’t sure whether you need treatment or not, a provider can conduct an assessment to determine what level of care you need.

  • Some people may feel so “broken” that they almost feel they can no longer experience joy and confidence, or have healthy relationships again.
  • One way to combat loneliness and isolation is to ensure you have a good support system whether it be friends, family members, others in your recovery program or even a therapist or counselor.

It also may be worth looking into a sober living home if you don’t feel safe around your family members or feel you may be tempted to drink while there. Below are a number of common factors which can often be a trigger for or contribute to relapse during alcoholism recovery. If you’ve experienced a relapse and are ready to seek treatment, American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) admissions navigators can discuss your treatment options with you. is a subsidiary of AAC, a nationwide provider of addiction treatment services. You may need a different approach to treatment, or perhaps to return to inpatient treatment.

Additional research questions are whether the response to stress and alcohol-related stimuli differs for alcohol-dependent and non–alcohol-dependent people and whether stress responses and managing stress is altered as a function of chronic alcohol use. These vignettes provide anecdotal evidence; research is needed to address the question of whether craving and stress-related arousal are predictive of relapse outcomes and whether stress causes relapse. The main article addresses each of these questions to elucidate how stress increases the risk of alcohol relapse. As discussed in the previous section, alcohol-dependent individuals in early recovery show increased stress and alcohol cue–induced craving responses. Upon stress and alcohol cue exposure, they showed greater subjective distress, alcohol craving, and blood pressure responses but blunted stress-induced heart rate and cortisol responses compared with control subjects (Sinha et al. 2009).

Alcohol Relapse