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Addicts: What has the Highest Drug Relapse Rate?

No one factor determines the highest drug relapse rate. Numerous factors, such as addiction longevity, severity, mental health, rehab quality, and available support systems, can impact relapse rates. It’s vital that we analyze relapse rates by drug type since substance abuse can affect relapse potential. 

Understanding the Difference Between Lapse and Relapse 

Before diving into relapse rates, it’s important to understand that there is a difference between a lapse and a relapse. These two clinical terms can be defined as follows: 
  • A lapse usually refers to a brief slip or very brief return to using a substance. A lapse is usually quickly corrected, and the person gets back on their recovery program with little to no issues.
  • Relapse refers to resuming a more extended and excessive period of substance abuse after a period of improvement. A relapse includes returning symptoms that meet the diagnostic criteria for addiction and substance use disorder. 
A Deep Dive into Relapse: Experts agree that the following things are true about relapse: 
  • The risk of returning to addiction is highest in the first year after detox.
  • People who receive professional assistance through their addiction are less likely to relapse.
  • People who regularly participate in follow-up support programs are also less likely to relapse. 
  • Individuals who stop using drugs but make few other changes in their lifestyle are at higher risk of relapse due to trigger situations. 
  • Addiction relapse rates are similar to recurrence-of-symptoms rates for chronic diseases such as asthma at an astounding 50% — this is why addiction is often classified as a chronic disease. 
There has been a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between these two clinical definitions over the years. Studies have attempted to look at relapse and lapse rates across different substances but have run into discrepant findings because the terms are often defined differently. To make things more complicated, some individuals go through the recovery process and consider a single slip-up a full-blown relapse. In contrast, others who suffer from a relapse may consider it a minor slip. Some organizations even consider simply thinking about using a sign of relapse.  Nonetheless, these definitions serve as a reference for an individual’s situation and can help them, and their support system determine the kind of care they need through their recovery journey. 

The Highest Drug Relapse Rates 

Precise statistics are difficult to come by regarding the highest drug relapse rates. This struggle comes mainly from the inherent difficulties of defining a relapse and distinguishing it from a lapse. There is a consensus that the drugs with the highest relapse rates — rates over 60% — are the following: 
  • Opiates. 
  • Alcohol.
  • Cocaine/Crack.


Opiates were widely associated with the recreational drug heroin in the 1960s and 70s. Today, however, opiates are associated with painkilling medications. Opiates are highly addictive when misused. In fact, the state of Utah has struggled with opioid prescription abuse Opiates are addictive and difficult to quit due to the following reasons: 
  • They are highly effective at reducing pain and inducing feelings of euphoria. These effects make an individual look undesirably at their normal physical and mental states. 
  • The human body is quick to adapt to and build up a tolerance to opiates. 
  • Withdrawal symptoms can be highly unpleasant.
Since opiates are being prescribed less today and are more difficult to obtain, those who are relapsing are turning to stronger, more dangerous opiates such as heroin and fentanyl. 

How to avoid an opiate relapse 

There are steps that an individual can take to avoid relapsing. These steps include the following: 
  • Practice relaxation exercises to reduce physical pain. 
  • Take breaks from work to avoid overstressing any muscles and triggering chronic pain. 
  • Take regular days off from work when possible. 
  • Get plenty of sleep every night, about eight to nine hours. 
  • Seek help for mental health issues such as depression.
  • Avoid taking on too many responsibilities and avoid burnout.
  • Practice positive affirmations.


Alcohol is one of the oldest known drugs to humans. Though we can use it in a medical setting, alcohol is mainly bought and consumed recreationally today. The high consumption of alcohol and the effects that come with it is the reason it’s such as addictive substance and why alcohol relapse rates are so high.  Take the temptation of social drinking and pair it with modern media showcasing happy people having a drink on the beach, and you have a recipe for disaster if you don’t moderate your consumption. Alcoholism rates are also high for individuals who use it to self-medicate their mental issues. 

How to avoid alcohol relapse

You can take some steps if you’re struggling with alcohol addiction and looking to avoid a relapse. These steps are as follows: 
  • Avoid venues that serve alcohol if you don’t think you can control your temptation. 
  • Have a plan if someone offers you a drink. 
  • Avoid going out with friends who may enable you to drink. 


Recreational cocaine was primarily regarded as a “rich person’s” drug until the mid-1980s. During this time, cocaine was made cheap and smokeable, becoming popular in lower-income neighborhoods and known as crack.  Cocaine creates a strong psychological dependence, and people who have detoxed from it have been faced with relapse due to the following: 
  • The desire to experience intense feelings of euphoria.
  • The desire for a burst of energy. 
  • The hope to lose weight and suppress appetite. 

How to avoid a cocaine/crack relapse

Here are some suggestions to help you avoid a relapse related to cocaine withdrawals:
  • Get plenty of sleep, about eight to nine hours. 
  • Avoid adding too much stress to your day-to-day routine.
  • Develop positive affirmations.

Get the Help You Need at Ardu Recovery Center 

If you’re looking to stop using a substance with the highest drug relapse rate but don’t know where to start, get in touch with us at Ardu Recovery Center. Our state-of-the-art facilities in Provo, Utah, have the support systems, staff, and treatment options that you need to get on the right track to recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about our services, and remember that you don’t have to face recovery alone!