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9 Signs of Opioid Relapse You Should Know

By Jon McKenna
If you or a loved one are concerned about opioid relapse, it’s important to be aware of early warning signs and triggers.

Relapsing is a major concern for people recovering from prescription opioid abuse.

According to an article in the Journal of Addiction, studies have shown that the relapse rate one to three years after opioid detoxification ranges from 72 to 88 percent. If you or a loved one are concerned about opioid relapse, it’s important to be aware of the signs – both early warning signs and triggers. This includes any cues that cause someone in recovery to crave the drug.

Possible warning signs of an opioid relapse include: 

1. Resisting Treatment Adjustments

Experts say a successful recovery from opioid dependency or addiction requires ongoing adjustments to medication doses and counseling services. Otherwise, you may not get the appropriate relief from withdrawal symptoms as well as the important coping skills that you may need.

2. Doubting the Success of the Recovery Treatment 

According to Antonello Bonci, MD, founder and executive chairman of Global Institutes on Addictions, a research and treatment center in Miami, an important warning sign of an opioid relapse is doubting the success of your opioid abuse treatment. An indication of this is questioning your recovery progress and whether or not the recovery program is really effective.

3. Nostalgic for an Opiate High

“One of the top warning signs of relapse is someone remembering the days of drug use with fondness, as though they were the ‘good old days,’” Bonci says.

“Spending more time with old friends, acquaintances, and places where they used before is concerning,” says Steven Powell, MD, and chief medical officer with PursueCare, a telehealth company in Middletown, Connecticut.

4. Behavioral Changes

“Be on the lookout in case the user becomes increasingly isolated, starts avoiding counseling sessions and other support structures, or suddenly abandons favorite interests and activities,” Bonci says.

5. Lack of Support

If you are unable to access professional healthcare providers such as doctors, nurses, or paramedics, family members, or support groups that you need to recover, it increases the temptation to use opioids. This can be a warning sign of a potential opioid relapse. 

6. Financial Stress

Another warning sign that may cause someone to experience an opioid relapse is when the person with an opioid dependency is going through some financial stress. “Increasing debts and financial stress can be warning signs of relapse as well,” Powell says.

7. Emotional Stress

Emotional stress in your life can make it hard to control your withdrawal symptoms or cravings, which may be an indicator of a potential opioid relapse. Emotional stress can activate important sections of the brain that are linked to addiction, according to Bonci.

8. Negative Emotions 

People living with opioid dependency are usually susceptible to negative thoughts about themselves that often make them vulnerable to relapse. “Thinking of ways they have hurt others and themselves, and ways that things could have been different often can cause extreme negativity,” Powell says.

9. Celebrations and Other Fun Times

As opposed to negative emotions and its effects, celebrating with friends often gives the opioid user a sense that “it is okay this once,” which can also possibly lead to a potential relapse, Powell explains.

Get Help Now

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.

Understanding Opioid Addiction