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Common Triggers for Relapsing After Drug Rehab

With 40 to 60% of addicts relapsing post-treatment per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), coping with triggers to use again is a major concern. If you can understand what might trigger a relapse before you even leave drug rehab, you’ve gone a long way toward preventing relapse in the first place. By speaking with a psychotherapist or a counselor, you can have a game plan in place to identify the internal and external triggers, and any possible social, environmental, and emotional situations that will remind you of your past drug or alcohol use and tempt you to want to use again.

Learn Your Internal Triggers for Relapse & How to Manage Them

Internal triggers involve feelings, thoughts, or emotions that you used to associate with drugs or alcohol, and when these arise, they can lead to questionable behaviors that deter recovery. Exposure to internal triggers makes these individuals tempted to use substances, such as any number of negative feelings, including those like fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, depression, stress, loneliness, and so on. Even positive feelings and the desire to celebrate can open the door to wanting to party with drugs and alcohol.

If you find yourself confronted with internal triggers and potentially tempted to relapse, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel before and after using drugs and/or alcohol?
  • How will I feel if I wait an hour before I decide to try drugs and/or alcohol?
  • In the past week, how did I feel when I was tempted to use or wanted to use substances?

By taking several moments to reflect, you may be less likely to relapse. If possible, contact your sponsor, your therapist, or even a crisis hotline to discuss your desire to use so you can nip it in the bud before you get high. Remember what is at stake before you pull the trigger.

Examples of External Triggers for Relapse & How to Avoid Them

External triggers include the people, places, activities, and objects that serve as reminders of previous substance use. These triggers are much easier to identify and manage than internal triggers.


It is highly perilous for a recovering drug addict to be near their friends or family who continue to use drugs or alcohol, as this can cause overwhelming cravings to use. These loved ones may not even understand the consequences of their behaviors, making their friend in early recovery feel lonely and alienated, which could also push them towards using again.


You may find high-risk places where you used to engage in substance use that could spark memories connected to your former drug or alcohol use, including the neighborhoods, bars and clubs, concerts, or any areas where you indulged.


Everyday objects can induce cravings, such as spoons if you are a heroin user, straws or razors if you did cocaine, or shot glasses if you are a recovering alcoholic. Per a NIDA study, the brain registers and processes stimuli such as these in the same areas of the brain involved in drug-seeking behaviors.


Many events, like the holidays, concerts, or parties, involve drugs and alcohol, and may be tricky or should be avoided altogether.

Find a Healthier Way to Cope with Internal & External Triggers: Contact Mount Sinai Wellness Center

At Mount Sinai Wellness Center, we are your partners for a healthier future. Our team realizes the struggles it takes to achieve and maintain sobriety, and our trained therapists and staff can help you get there. We have seen countless individuals go from negative situations where they face their internal and external triggers regularly and they weren’t even aware of it. By becoming aware of what these triggers are, you can push past them and get on the road to recovery and wellness. We’ll be there to help you and watch you flourish.

To contact us at Mount Sinai Wellness Center, call (800) 353-4673 now.