Various “triggers” can put people at risk of relapsing into old patterns of addiction. A trigger can be as simple as people, places, or feelings that initiate a desire, or craving or reminder of past addictive behaviors. Causes of relapse can differ for each person. Pay attention to the following ten situations, events and feelings as they are the most common causes to relapse:

Negative emotional states

Strong feelings such as anger, sadness, trauma or stress, overwhelm, anxiety, and loneliness can trigger a desire to use. One of the main reasons for using substances and addictive behaviors is to feel better.

Physical discomfort

Discomfort from any physical cause such as withdrawal or physical pain, hunger, sleeplessness or insomnia can cause someone to seek relief of that pain through addictive substances.

Positive emotional states

There are often feeling of joy and the belief that, by using a drug or other addictive substance, the feeling can be enhanced or prolonged.

Testing personal control

Sometimes the thought, “I have this under control now. I am doing so well. I can just have one and stop,” brings on what can be called the “testing behavior.” Unfortunately the end result is usually a massive relapse.

Strong temptations or urges

When cravings and compulsions surface, deal with them immediately. Romancing a craving (indulging in the behavior in one’s imagination) will eventually put the person at risk of relapse.

Conflict with others

Getting into altercations and arguments can trigger fight, flight or freeze responses, which can overwhelm and cause relapse.

Good times with others

Certain situations at work, or in social circles almost “require” one to drink as well as family functions where alcohol or other substances may be present, cause real pressure to relapse and are extremely dangerous. Change of environment

Moving to another city, state or a sudden change or loss of support such as deaths of friends, partners, friends where one feels unsure, in grief or overwhelmed and adrift.

These events are a problem especially if there is no support available.

Being around friends, places or associating with people involved in the drug or behavior of choice.

Especially in beginning recovery, it is wise to avoid old friends, connections and places that exert peer pressure and cause “temporary amnesia” about the choice for recovery and the desire to stay clean and sober. This is also often a trigger for the thought, “Just once won’t hurt.”


This often-overlooked trigger can occur with someone who has no structure, purpose or meaning in his/her life and is simply looking for a way to increase excitement or to feel excited.

Some material from: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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Author's Bio: 

Sandra Lenington, MA is an authority on the psychology of recovery with a purpose of assisting others to experience the psychic change that is sufficient to assure a life of irresistible joy and balance. As a life-long learner and lover of new and fun techniques, she insists that recovery be joyful...otherwise, why do it? The bottom line? If it doesn't work, try something else!

She also trains other coaches and previously has worked as a physical therapist as well as having owned several companies that develop websites; she has worked for NASA as a research engineer.