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Identifying & Managing Relapse Triggers

ARC - Managing Triggers-01

Many addicts are in a constant battle against their addiction, even after they have completed a treatment programme at a rehab facility. Sobriety requires life-long dedication, and many face challenges throughout the process. Unfortunately, an inevitable challenge is experiencing cravings, which are normally prompted by relapse triggers.

What Are Relapse Triggers?

Relapse triggers can be defined as events or circumstances that cause an addict to crave substances. These triggers can also lead to feelings of anxiety and panic. Relapse triggers can be caused by a number of factors such as people, places, emotions or things.

Triggers can create the addict to experience intense urges to use again, and it’s important for them to identify these triggers and establishing methods of effectively handling them before they become uncontrollable.

Types of Relapse Triggers


Building new healthy relationships is an essential part of the recovery journey, however oftentimes close friends or family who the addict used to do drugs with may still be a part of their life. These people can cause strong urges to use again and will only negatively impact the sobriety goals that the addict has already achieved.

Other people that could influence cravings and triggers:
• Employers or co-workers
• Spouses/partners
• Former drug dealers


High-risk places and environments where the addict may recall using substances regularly. This recollection of using in these places can lead to the addict experiencing urges to use again.

Common high-risk places:
• Bars or clubs
• Concerts
• A friends home
• Parks


It’s common that recovering addicts would previously use substances to cope with their negative emotions, such as stress or anxiety. However, using substances would only provide temporary relief. In recovery, addicts need to establish effective ways of managing their emotions in their new daily sober life.

Emotional triggers:
• Fear
• Anxiety
• Anger or resentment
• Depression
• Loneliness


Everyday objects can cause an addict to crave substances. Certain objects can remind the addict of memories from using in their past.

Numerous objects that can induce urges:
• Magazines
• TV
• Movies
• Empty pill or alcohol bottles
• Credit cards
• Personal belongings

Managing Cravings

Triggers can manifest in many different forms, and some of them are sometimes impossible to avoid. However, avoiding the obvious, accessible triggers is crucial, such as avoiding night clubs or contact with friends you used to use with.

The first step is establishing personal triggers and making a conscious choice to either avoid them completely or coming to terms with them by implementing management techniques. Healthy practices need to be put in place to replace the old, unhealthy ones. This applies to both internal and external triggers.

Joining support groups and regularly attending an out-patient programme can also be extremely beneficial, especially in the early days of recovery.

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