An opioid overdose requires immediate medical attention. Call 911 immediately if you or someone you know exhibits any of the symptoms.




Relapse Happens

Anyone trying to recover from opioid addiction will encounter opportunities for relapse. National statistics indicate that 40 to 60% of those in recovery relapse at some point. However, this is not as bleak as it seems.

Recovery is seldom a straight line. Naturally, relapse can feel like a failure, but although it does happen, it’s not who you are. That’s when it’s important to be kind to yourself, which can be the most challenging part of recovery for some.

If you do experience a relapse, don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support. Recovery is a journey, and with determination, support, and the right strategies, you can minimize the risk of opioid use relapse and continue on the path to the life you want for yourself.

What leads to relapse

People recovering from opioid use disorder may experience relapse due to a combination of psychological, physiological, and social factors.


Opioids affect the brain’s reward system, creating a powerful craving for the drug. Even after stopping opioid use, the brain’s pathways associated with pleasure and reward may still be in “user” mode. This can lead to intense cravings and a strong desire to use opioids again. Considering the emotional complexities of any addiction, it can be extremely challenging for individuals to resist the urge to use, and maintain their recovery.


Prolonged opioid use alters the body’s natural production of certain chemicals, such as endorphins, which help regulate pain and mood. When opioids are discontinued, it takes time for the body to readjust and restore its natural balance. This is when individuals may experience withdrawal, including intense physical discomfort, anxiety, and depression. These physical symptoms can be overwhelming, and some individuals may relapse in an attempt to alleviate their distress.


Recovery from opioid use disorder often requires significant lifestyle changes. People in recovery may need to distance themselves from environments, relationships, or social circles associated with drug use. Returning to these environments or being exposed to triggers (people, places, or situations associated with drug use) can provoke intense cravings and increase the risk of relapse. Remember that a lack of social support or exposure to stressful life events can contribute to a relapse.

Preventing relapse

Avoiding an opioid use relapse can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can help you stay on track. Here are some effective ways to prevent a relapse:
Have a support system

Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your recovery journey. This can include friends, family, support groups, or a counselor. Having a support system can provide encouragement, understanding, and accountability during difficult times.

Find ways to cope
Seek ways to manage stress, pain, or negative emotions that don't rely on opioids. Engage in activities that bring you joy, such as exercise, hobbies, meditation, mindful breathing, or spending time with loved ones. Learning and practicing healthy coping skills can reduce the temptation to use opioids.
Make a plan

Work with a healthcare professional or counselor to develop a personalized relapse prevention plan. This plan may include identifying triggers that could lead to relapse and developing strategies to avoid or cope with them effectively. It can also involve setting clear goals, establishing healthy routines, and regularly assessing your progress.

Work on pain management

If you experience chronic pain, it's crucial to work closely with your healthcare provider to find safe and non-opioid pain management strategies. This may involve physical therapy, alternative therapies like acupuncture or chiropractic care, or non-opioid medications. Effective pain management can help reduce the temptation to use opioids for pain relief.

Be kind to yourself

Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is essential to relapse prevention. Focus on the basics: proper nutrition, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress reduction. Choose activities that promote self-care and well-being, such as relaxation exercises, journaling, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.

Know what to avoid

Recognize and avoid situations or environments that may trigger cravings or tempt you to use opioids. This may involve staying away from individuals who use drugs, avoiding places associated with drug use, or making changes to your routine or social activities if they pose a risk to your recovery.

Stick with treatment

Attending regular counseling sessions, support group meetings, or any other form of treatment is crucial for maintaining recovery. Stay engaged in your treatment plan and be open with your healthcare provider or counselor about any challenges or concerns you may have.