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What Is Relapse After Recovery?

How Common Is Relapse?

No one is perfect, and managing addiction is challenging. For some, relapse is part of recovery. According to a review of relapse prevention, lapse and relapse are not only possible, but common within and after the first year of seeking treatment. Treatment for addiction can help clients work through a relapse and begin taking active steps to change their behavior.

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Types of Relapse

Substance Abuse Relapse

Substance abuse relapse occurs when a person who has been away from using a substance for some time begins using again. A lapse is viewed as the initial or one-time use after not using, while a relapse is characterized by uncontrolled or continued use of substances.

A traditional relapse involves a person choosing to use again, while a "freelapse" occurs when a person unintentionally becomes intoxicated.

Examples of Freelapse Examples of a person unintentionally becoming intoxicated include:

  • From anesthesia for a surgery or medical procedure

  • Accidentally inhaling fumes from an intoxicating substance

  • Accidentally eating or drinking something that contains an intoxicating substance

Mental Health Relapse

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.

Physical Illness Relapse

The resurgence of physical health symptoms after a period of well-being signifies a physical health relapse.


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