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Should I Go Back to Rehab After I Relapse?

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Some people describe recovery as a roller coaster that is full of highs and lows or ups and downs. Unfortunately, some of those lows end with people relapsing on drugs or alcohol.

Relapse is extremely dangerous. Not only does relapse often lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment, but it can also mean an increased risk for overdose or negative side effects. Going back to rehab after a relapse can help you get back on track and, most importantly, figure out why you relapsed in the first place.

If you have previously been to rehab but have experienced a relapse, you may be wondering whether or not you need to go back to rehab. While nobody wants to spend months away from their family or accrue the high cost of behavioral health services, doing so can mean the difference between life and death.

What Defines a Relapse?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “relapse” is defined as starting to become ill or behave poorly again after making some improvement.[1] This term can be used in relation to various health conditions, ranging from substance abuse to cancer, binge eating disorder, and high blood pressure.

When referring to substance use disorder and addiction recovery, relapse describes what happens when a person returns to abusing drugs and/or alcohol after a period of sobriety.

Drug and alcohol relapse can vary in severity and duration. Some people even differentiate between a “slip” or a “lapse” and a true “relapse.” A slip or lapse is described as a temporary or one-time return to using substances. A relapse, on the other hand, often describes a return to drug use that lasts several days, weeks, months, or even years.

Overall, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates between 40-60% of individuals relapse if they stop following their treatment plan.[2]

Does Every Relapse Require a Trip Back to Drug Rehab?

No two individuals have the same treatment needs, and your relapse may be different than someone else’s. A slip or lapse may not always warrant a trip back to rehab if you are honest about your relapse with your sponsor or therapist and begin taking steps to improve your recovery. At the same time, someone who has been sober for 10 years with a solid foundation in recovery may not need to go to rehab if he or she has the proper support system and plan in place. However, there are many circumstances in which it is in your best interest to go back to drug rehab after your relapse.

Tell-Tale Signs It Is Time to Go Back to Rehab

Everyone is unique, and the best way to know whether or not it is time to go back to rehab is to have an assessment with a trusted addiction or mental health specialist. They can give you an evaluation to determine your treatment needs and make an educated recommendation regarding your care.

A few examples of circumstances in which you should always consider seeking treatment include:

  • You had a relapse that lasted for a significant amount of time (several months or years).
  • You recently left rehab and do not have the proper support system in place to get back on the right track.
  • Due to the severity of your relapse, you are unable to stop using drugs and/or alcohol on your own, or you need medical detox services.
  • You struggle with co-occurring mental or behavioral health conditions that may affect your ability to stay sober.

Although few people are happy about going back to rehab after a relapse, doing so can save your life.

Why Didn’t Rehab Work for Me The First Time?

Regardless of your situation and the severity of your relapse, it’s important to remember that relapse doesn’t mean failure. It also doesn’t mean that treatment didn’t work for you. Instead, relapse is an indication that your treatment and relapse prevention plan needs some kind of adjustment or reinforcement. After all, returning to old habits after a period of sobriety is easy to do if you aren’t following your treatment plan and taking steps to treat your addiction.

There are many reasons for relapse. Some of the most common include:

  • Not going to meetings or therapy sessions anymore
  • Struggling with mental health
  • Inadequate coping skills
  • Not following one’s relapse prevention plan
  • Not taking the suggestions made to you during rehab.

The second round of drug rehab is an opportunity to figure out why you relapsed and develop skills to prevent a future relapse from occurring.

What Will Rehab Be Like When I Return After a Drug Relapse?

If you decide it is best to go back to rehab after your relapse, know that you won’t be alone. Relapse is a common occurrence among recovering individuals and many people have to go to rehab more than once. The faster you ask for help and get honest about your substance use, the easier it will be to regain control over your addiction.

Your second round of rehab will focus on your relapse. Your substance abuse counselor will use techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you analyze your relapse. You will learn how to identify triggers, cope with cravings, and intervene if you begin slipping away from your recovery again. You will also analyze the emotions you feel regarding your relapse to help you overcome any regret, shame, or embarrassment you may be experiencing. Lastly, you’ll work closely with your therapist to develop an adjusted relapse prevention plan that addresses your unique needs.

Find Help Today

If you find yourself back at a drug rehab center after you relapse, know that you are not a failure, and nobody is judging you. Asking for help when you need help is one of the most courageous things you can do–and it just might save your life.

If you or a loved one have relapsed and are in need of professional treatment services, we can help. Pick up the phone and call us now to speak with a dedicated addiction treatment provider.