Chronic Relapse

At Harmony Ridge, we address the underlying factors contributing to relapse and focus on building resilience and coping skills. With the support of our experienced team, you can achieve sustained recovery.


Overcoming addiction is an extremely challenging task for an individual struggling with substance use disorder. Still, after completing that task, there lies a deeper struggle in remaining sober and avoiding relapsing. Recovering individuals must be vigilant about being sober. If they aren’t vigilant about their sobriety, relapsing will be inevitable. Matter of fact, relapsing is so common that many individuals end up doing it repeatedly. When this process occurs, individuals are struggling with chronic relapse.

What Is a Chronic Relapse?

Chronic relapse occurs because of chronic relapsing disease. Chronic relapsing disease is a disorder that causes a person to relapse continuously after receiving addiction treatment. The majority of individuals who experience chronic relapse typically do so after attending a rehab program that is usually less than 90 days long. This is because individuals that struggle with severe substance addictions generally need at least 90 days of treatment. 

If an individual relapses after attending a rehab program, it’s even more pivotal that he or she attend long-term inpatient treatment. The major benefit of a recovering individual attending a long-term inpatient treatment program is the lessons that are learned during it. Typically the lessons become ingrained in the patients. 

Statistics on Chronic Relapse

According to organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Harvard University, the overall relapse rate of people in rehab for substance use disorders is between 40-60%. In addition, less than 20% of individuals who complete alcohol and drug treatment are clean for up to one year. 

Once individuals can stay clean for two years though, they will most likely stay clean. In fact, over 60% of individuals who stay clean for up to two years remain clean. Conversely, about 60% of individuals relapse during outpatient and inpatient rehab. 

People who suffer from certain substance use disorders are more likely to experience chronic relapse. For example, about 90% of individuals who struggle with alcohol use undergo at least one alcoholic relapse within the first four years of their recovery. The statistics and data discovered here indicate that alcohol relapse is extremely likely. Thus, maintaining sobriety from alcohol is extremely challenging. 

You don’t have to feel inadequate for experiencing a chronic relapse. If you do relapse, simply attend rehab again, take all of the precautionary measures to avoid relapsing, and keep striving. 

A huge precautionary measure that one can take to prevent a chronic relapse is recognizing the warning signs of it beforehand. That way you’re able to do what is needed to halt chronic relapses. 

What Are the Warning Signs of Chronic Relapsing Disease?


Similar to many things in life, there are typically warning signs of a possible relapse. Some chronic relapse warning signs include:

Failing to Ask Yourself the Right Questions

The following are the type of questions that you need to be able to answer before leaving your rehab program. If you aren’t able to answer most of the questions below before exiting rehab, your chances of chronic relapse are high. 

  • What are some coping mechanisms and hobbies that you plan on utilizing in the real world to help you abstain from alcohol and substance use?
  • How are you going to make certain that you stay away from negative influences once you get back to the real world?
  • Is your home environment suitable for an individual that is sober to live in?
  • How often do you plan on attending aftercare treatment programs?
  • Do you plan on attending 12-Step programs and/or therapy after rehab?

Lack of Preparation to Return Back to the Real World After Treatment 

One warning sign of chronic relapse is if a person departs from rehab without taking the adequate time to plan ahead for what will occupy his or her time in the real world. Luckily, a person can plan for his or her time in the real world after rehab during aftercare treatment.  

If the rehab center that you’re attending offers aftercare programs, definitely be sure to take advantage of them. That way you’ll have a solid plan about the measures you’ll take to stay sober after you completely leave rehab. 

Lack of Direction in Life

When an individual that is in recovery has a general lack of direction in life, it is a clear sign that he or she will likely experience chronic relapse. This is because it shows that the person has no post-treatment goals. Therefore, that person will most likely fall back into the old addiction habits that he or she had before. 

Not Knowing Your Coping Mechanisms or Triggers 

Rehab patients need to make sure that they understand what their individual addiction triggers are. Rehab patients should also understand the coping mechanisms that they should practice to help manage their triggers. Thus, if you’re uncertain of your triggers and coping mechanisms before leaving a rehab program, it’ll be much more challenging to maintain sobriety in the real world. 

Not Completing One’s Addiction Treatment Program 

To receive the most out of addiction treatment, an individual must fully complete his or her rehab program. When an individual doesn’t complete his or her addiction treatment program, the chances of a chronic relapse becomes greater. 

Lack of a Desire to Remain Sober

An individual must want to achieve and maintain sobriety to avoid chronic relapse. If an individual spends a great deal of time in addiction treatment but doesn’t desire to stay sober, chronic relapse will likely occur. 

Poor Mental Health

The main reason why individuals begin to abuse substances in the first place is as an attempt to deal with the mental illnesses that they’re struggling with. Consequently, refusing to deal with one’s mental illness, can easily trigger that person’s desire to abuse substances. If an individual is consistently struggling with poor mental health after receiving addiction treatment, chronic relapse is destined to occur. 

To tend to your mental health after addiction treatment, you must utilize your coping mechanisms and practice self-care. It’s always recommended that you continue to attend your addiction treatment program, along with various support groups. 

Socializing With People Who Abuse Substances Post-Treatment 

Once you have completed your addiction treatment program, you will need to make changes in your life to maintain your sobriety. This will include cutting off the individuals in your life that you used to engage in substance use with. Choosing to socialize with substance users when you’re new to sobriety and attempting to stay sober is a major recipe for chronic relapse. 

What Are the Stages of Chronic Relapsing Disease?


Alcohol and drug relapse occur in three major stages, emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. 

Emotional Relapse

The first stage in chronic relapsing disease is emotional relapse. In this stage of chronic relapse, individuals typically behave in ways that will cause them to become much more susceptible to relapsing. There are many individuals in the emotional relapse stage that don’t even realize that they are in it. 

Signs of Emotional Relapse

  • Not participating or attending support group meetings
  • Poor sleeping and eating habits
  • Bottling up emotions
  • Isolating oneself
  • Poor self-care

Mental Relapse

The second stage in chronic relapsing disease is mental relapse. Mental relapse happens when an individual actively desires and thinks about using substances again. 

Signs of Mental Relapse

  • Fondly thinking about past people that you used to engage in substance use with or the places where you used to use substances at
  • Minimizing the negative effects of your past drug use
  • Glamorizing the times of past drug use
  • Looking for opportunities to relapse
  • Alcohol and drug cravings
  • Planning for the relapse
  • Bargaining and lying

Physical Relapse

The final and third stage of relapse is physical relapse. In this stage, individuals will relapse officially and engage in substance use again. Due to embarrassment, many people attempt to hide their physical relapse.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Relapse Disease?


Whether an individual is currently struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or not, once he or she develops chronic relapsing habits, chronic relapse is likely not far behind. 

Some other common signs and symptoms of chronic relapsing disease include: 

  • Knowing an excessive amount about addiction treatment but not having the actual ability to apply it
  • Believing that you’re able to engage in substance use again without triggering your addiction 
  • Refusing to face the underlying issues of your addiction 
  • No longer participating in specific activities and hobbies
  • Doubting the overall effectiveness of recovery 
  • Associating sobriety with struggle
  • Not attending support groups
  • Poor eating and sleeping habits
  • Isolating oneself from others
  • Romanticizing drug use
  • Using substances again
  • Craving substances
  • Feeling low in energy
  • Exhibiting emotional issues
  • Hopelessness
  • Dishonesty

What Are the Dangers of Chronic Relapse?


There are many dangers of chronic relapse, especially when an individual’s body has been used to being sober for an extended period of time. Once a person that has been sober for a while engages in substance use again, it can be a shock to his or her body. Subsequently, upon relapsing from a certain substance, an individual is likely to experience overdose and possibly death.

How Can You Prevent Chronic Relapsing Disease?


The first step to preventing chronic relapsing disease is identifying your triggers. After you fully learn and understand your triggers, you’ll be able to develop healthy coping mechanisms to help you manage them. As a matter of fact, after creating coping mechanisms, it’ll be beneficial to create a developed chronic relapse prevention plan. 

A chronic relapse prevention plan is a thought-out and individualized series of measures and steps that an individual follows to assist him or her in remaining sober. The five steps below are how to complete a chronic relapse prevention plan. 

  1. Reflect on your past substance use and reflect on what triggered your past substance use.
  2. List out all of your triggers and write out plans on how to properly deal with them.
  3. Create a detailed and step-by-step plan that informs you on what to do if you did relapse.
  4. Generate an emergency contact list.
  5. Create goals for yourself.

What Is Chronic Relapse Treatment?


To receive efficient help for chronic relapsing disease, the first step is attending a medical detox program followed by rehab at one of the several chronic relapse treatment centers. Chronic relapse treatment centers are specialized rehab centers that offer long-term inpatient treatment. When a treatment program lasts longer than 90 days, it’s considered long-term. 

After detox and rehab are officially completed, it’s imperative to create a chronic relapse prevention plan and attend an aftercare treatment program. Some individuals might need the extra step of living in what is known as a transitional sober living home. They might be required to live there in between completing their individualized addiction treatment program and entering back into the real world. 

You must attend or complete whatever is needed for you to stay sober. Once you are officially back in the real world after your addiction treatment program is complete, make sure that you actively practice all of your coping mechanisms and make positive lifestyle changes. By engaging in what is needed for your recovery, your sobriety will be better maintained long-term.

Beat Chronic Relapse at Harmony Ridge


Here at Harmony Ridge, it’s completely expected that some individuals might require longer forms of addiction treatment to achieve long-term sobriety. This is why 90-day programs are so essential. Our high-quality, individualized, and specialized 90-day rehab programs are designed to help you get back on track with your sobriety and stay there. 

We work especially hard to provide our patients with recovery and treatment options that will reenergize and overall strengthen their minds and bodies. Our goal is to have every person depart from our services feeling well equipped to enjoy sober and successful lives. Contact us today to get started.

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