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Preventing or coping with an alcohol and drug relapse

Changing habits can happen immediately, or it can take a few tries.

A slip-up (relapse) is when you go back to an old pattern of alcohol or drug use after you have stopped.

It can be helpful to prepare for a slip-up. If you are prepared, you are less likely to have one.

Having a slip-up does not mean you cannot change or will not succeed in the end.

Some things that can lead to a relapse include:

  • being in a high-risk situation before you were ready
  • trying to take a smaller amount of alcohol or drugs
  • coping with a difficult emotional situation
  • a lack of support, if you need it
  • coping with withdrawal or cravings
  • pressure from other people

Try again

Remind yourself why this change is important to you. Look over your reasons for changing again.

It might be helpful to write down the pros and cons. Do this on a piece of paper or download and print our decisional balance worksheet (PDF, 1 page, 55 KB).

Set a new date and make a new plan.

Think about:

  • what worked well for you last time
  • what was difficult for you last time
  • how you will handle it next time

You might use some supports, including:

  • professional support
  • peer-support from people going through the same thing
  • friends and family

Non-urgent advice: Get help with problem drugs and alcohol use

Page last reviewed: 7 September 2022
Next review due: 7 September 2025