Relapse Prevention:

Learn the signs of and the skills needed to prevent relapse

Relapse Prevention:

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

Planning for Relapse: A Recovery Journey

In 2017, close to 19 million Americans aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder related to alcohol and/or illicit drugs in the past year.1

Of these, approximately 14.5 million Americans had an alcohol use disorder and 7.5 million people experienced an illicit drug use disorder.

People with substance use disorders who sought treatment and became sober then faced the issue of relapse:2

  • Only about a third of people who are sober for less than a year will stay sober.
  • For people who reach a year of abstinence, less than half will relapse.
  • People who reach 5 years of sobriety have a chance of relapse of about 15%.

Relapse prevention is an important part of addiction treatment to keep recovering people safe and sober. Let’s take a look at relapse in detail, and how a plan to prevent relapse can help you or a loved one stay (or get back on) the recovery journey.

The Cycle of Addictiond

1. Initial Use

2. Abuse

3. Tolerance

4. Dependence

5. Addiction

6. Relapse

Relapse is returning to drug and/or alcohol abuse after a period of sobriety.

There are two major components taught in relapse prevention:

  • How to identify the warning signs that can lead to relapse
  • Coping skills to avoid relapse

Recovery is a process, not a single event, and needs vigilant attention.

A relapse prevention plan is a practical program that helps spot the signs of relapse, and to address the risks quickly and effectively.

Learn More About Recovery

How Does Relapse Develop?

The relapse process is progressive, much like the disease of addiction. The first drink or drug taking incident is the final act in the relapse process, but certain conditions developed well before that action. Thoughts, circumstances and behaviors that led to the relapse began long before drinking or drug use restarted. Relapse prevention plans educate people about these signs and how to get help in the early stages.

Stages of Relapse

The stages of relapse can be split into three categories: emotional, mental and physical.


The person progressively becomes defensive, angry and anxious. Feelings of isolation are setting in. The person knows help is needed at this stage, but won’t ask for it, pretending all is fine. Meeting attendance has stopped.