If you have relapsed, you may be wondering, “should I go back to rehab?” Well, the answer isn’t always a simple “yes” or “no.” There are several factors to consider to determine whether or not you should go back to rehab after a relapse.

With that said, more treatment never hurts. It can only benefit you by teaching you the skills you need to stay sober and help reinforce healthy coping mechanisms. Most importantly, it’s important to remember that relapse does not equal failure. In addition to asking for help, the second best thing you can do is to view your relapse as a learning experience – not a moral failing.

What Counts as a Relapse?

Defining what counts as a relapse can be confusing. It can also vary from one person to the next. Put simply, a relapse is a return to drug or alcohol use after a period of sobriety.

Some people will differentiate a “lapse” or “slip” from a “relapse.” Some people may refer to a lapse or a slip as a momentary return to substance abuse – or a single event. For example, someone who has been sober for several months and has one drink can be said to have “lapsed” or “slipped.”

If this individual were to continue drinking, returning to old behaviors that were broken in rehab, he or she can be said to have relapsed.

Relapses can vary in duration and severity. A relapse can last one week or it can last several years. People can also have more than one relapse. Regardless, relapse is a fairly common part of recovery for many people. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that between 40-60% of people who complete rehab will relapse.[1]

If you’ve experienced a brief relapse, you may be wondering whether or not you can benefit from going back to rehab. Since every individual is different, the answer isn’t that simple.

Common Causes of Relapse and Relapse Triggers

To determine whether or not you should go back to rehab after a relapse, it can be helpful to understand the different causes of relapse. By identifying the causes of relapse, you can examine your behaviors that led up to your relapse and use that as a learning experience.

There are many different things that can cause relapse. In most cases, relapses are triggered by an accumulation of events, experiences, or thoughts that build up over time. Some common occurrences or difficulties that may be relapse triggers include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Mental health symptoms
  • Development of mental illness
  • Physical health symptoms
  • Chronic stress
  • Breakups
  • Social/family problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Boredom
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Isolation/loneliness
  • Hanging out with old friends
  • Lower socioeconomic status

One study found that the top self-reported cause of relapse is the desire for a positive mood.[2]

Failing to fully commit to sobriety and a recovery program can also lead to relapse. People who don’t join a support group, participate in outpatient treatment, or address their mental health problems may be more susceptible to using drugs and alcohol.

Relapse also doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, the process can be broken down into four phases:

  1. Pre-contemplation – no thoughts of substance abuse have occurred yet, but old behaviors may begin to resurface.
  2. Contemplation – thoughts of using drugs and/or alcohol begin to occur. The person may begin justifying or minimizing the thought of using substances.
  3. Preparation – the person begins planning how, when, and where they will get high/drunk
  4. Action – this is when a person actually uses a drink or a drug

Some stages, such as the pre-contemplation and contemplation, can last for several weeks or even months before a person takes the action of substance abuse.

Do I Need Rehab After A Relapse?

The best way to determine if you should go back to rehab after a relapse is to look at how severe your relapse was and how likely you are to continue using substances. If you only had a “lapse” or a “slip,” have told your sponsor, and have re-committed yourself to your recovery, returning to rehab may not be necessary.

On the other hand, if you have begun shooting heroin once again and have been doing so for several months, going back to rehab is in your best interest. Long-term substance use will cause withdrawal symptoms that need to be treated in a medical detox center. It will also make it difficult for you to stop without professional help.

Consider asking yourself these questions to determine whether or not you should go back to treatment.

  • Can you/your insurance afford another residential rehab stay?
  • Do you have a strong network of support at home or is that something you need to be provided to you?
  • Are you truly determined to change your actions or do you have no idea where to start?
  • Have you been able to identify the reasons why you relapsed?
  • Do you need detox services?
  • Have you relapsed before?
  • How long did your relapse last?

If you have determined that you can benefit from a second round of treatment, consult an addiction treatment professional today.

Going Back to Rehab

Returning to rehab after a relapse is nothing to be ashamed of. Many people who try to get sober end up back in treatment. Rather than beating yourself up, try to think of it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, get more therapy, and grow as a human being.

During rehab, you will not only examine the reasons why you relapsed, but you will also learn how to prevent it from happening again in the future. These strategies can be learned through relapse prevention therapy – a cognitive-behavioral approach that identifies and addresses high-risk situations for relapse and assists individuals in making the appropriate behavioral changes.

Relapse prevention therapy has two primary goals:[3]

  1. Prevent an initial return to drug/alcohol use and maintain abstinence or adhere to harm reduction treatment goals.
  2. Provide coping skills to avoid future lapses or relapses from occurring.

You will also be asked to reflect upon the emotions you felt leading up to, during, and after your relapse. By addressing and analyzing these feelings, you will be able to explore new ways to cope with future triggers so you can stay sober.

Since you’ve already been to rehab before, the main focus should be on making sure your transition back to regular life is successful. As a result, your therapist will work with you throughout treatment to develop a detailed aftercare plan.

Your aftercare may consist of sober living, outpatient treatment, one-on-one counseling, and 12-step meetings. It’s essential that you start forming a network of support to hold yourself accountable for when you leave rehab once again.

Find Help Today

If you have already gone through rehab, but haven’t relapsed yet, you can still get help before you pick up a drink or a drug. Outpatient programs exist for that very reason – to help you maintain your sobriety while living your life.

However, if you have returned to old habits and are using drugs and/or alcohol, a residential treatment program may be a better option for you. Regardless of your situation, CWC Recovery can help. Call us today for a risk-free consultation and to learn about your rehab options.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5688890/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5844157/