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Drugs & Health Blog

Word of the Day: Relapse

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

Relapse…If you keep up with the SBB you know by now that addiction is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that takes hold in some people who abuse drugs. You may also know that some people can quit their drug use. But often a person will return to using drugs after they have quit. This is what NIDA Scientists call a relapse.

Why does it happen? Addiction changes the wiring of the brain to cause uncontrollable craving and compulsive drug use—despite the consequences. For someone with an addiction, going without the drug for periods of time can make that person feel so anxious and stressed that they need the drug just to stop feeling bad.

A person who is addicted to a drug usually needs professional treatment to quit drug use. This can include medication or "talk therapy (PDF, 1.19 MB)," or a combination of both. It also helps to have support in the family and the community. While quitting drug use is possible, addiction is a long-lasting disease, and treating it takes time-and just because someone gets treatment and stops using a drug does not mean that these strong cravings go away for good, especially when certain cues are present. These cues vary from person to person and can trigger a relapse.

Imagine that your best friend is addicted to cigarettes and says she smokes to relieve stress, but that she recently quit because her boyfriend hates the smell of cigarette smoke. Since she has connected cigarette smoking with stress relief, the next time your friend faces a stressful situation, like a fight with parents or final exams, she will most likely crave a cigarette, increasing her risk of a relapse. Her use of cigarettes, which led to an addiction to nicotine, has also caused her to associate "relaxation" with cigarettes.

Not everyone will relapse once they have quit drug use; it depends on the person, their genes, their environment, and many other factors, including personal commitment and family support.

For more information on addiction and today's "Word of the Day," check out the myths about drug abuse or the Brain and Addiction page on the NIDA for Teens website.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


They should call this the Lies for Teens site. Since this whole website is devoted to demonizing substances and not the root cause of drug abuse. The problem is not the drugs. Drugs are a symptom. Perhaps if we didn't waste BILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR, lying to our nation about the "dangers of pot", we could instead actually provide real funding for higher education, and get people out of poverty...Nah that would make too much sense. Lets just keep incarcerating depressed Americans. YEA!

@Truth--actually we do more than just say "drugs are bad." That's way too easy and simple-minded. Instead, the mission here has to respond to a way complicated problem and a really complex disease--addiction. So yeah, in many ways "drugs are a symptom," and demand a comprehensive approach. That includes making people aware of what causes addiction, trying to prevent it, and when that doesn't work, getting people into treatment rather than going around the revolving door of the prison system. Thanks for your post.

If one is going to relapse on smoking one should at least try electronic cigarettes. They work like a charm.

and i dont like smokers

I'm new to this blog and my daughter is going for her Masters in social work. I'm going to recommend to her that she check it out, there's a lot of valuable information here, which I'll also share with my readers.


smokers are so bad to kiss goodnight

back to were i was from yesterday smokers should know that it is bad to kiss someone you love even if you love them very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I agree with Truth!!

Actually it was my fear of experimenting with drugs on myself that kept me safe until my problems including PTSD overwhelmed my cognitive uneducated fears I tried pot, and many other things until I realized the my lack of fear towards dangerous substances was a severe issue in itself. Like the girlssays in "True Grit" "Why would I put a theif in my mouth to steal my brains?" Doing research on yourself and self reporting the results is somewhere between assisnine and insane.

I'M 53. Smoked since i was SEVEN. At least a PACK A DAY since i was 18. i would wake up every 3 hours while sleeping to smoke. i've NEVER gone longer than 4 hours, in all those years, without a smoke. Tried ALL the "Recommended" approved treatments.... gums, patches, acupuncture, hypnosis, "Chanix"... etc etc. ALL CRAP!! Then i discovered and thoroughly researched "E-Cigs". Like everything available to us in this world, there's different degrees of quality in a product. I purchased what i deemed to be a good product that delivers Nicotine ONLY in a vaporized form. it's just like smoking. Looks like it, tastes like it, and feels like it. Of the 4000 chemicals present in tobacco, 60 are cancer causing, and Nicotine is NOT one of them. I have NOT had a tobacco cigarette in 6 weeks. PERIOD. I "Vape" instead. A year ago the "Government Run (those folks would NEVER mislead you, would they?!) FDA "Tested" 17 different nicotine juices available. They found ONE from "China" (Those folks would never send us anything harmful, would they?!) that contained a "Trace" amount of essentialy car ant-freeze. So, in all their "GovernMENTAL" wisdom, they claimed that e-cigs are harmful. I don't purchase anything my children handle or eat from china, and i sure as HELL wont buy a liquid i'm going to inhale from them either. That's MY wisdom. The success rate among people (Old long-term heavy smokers) like me is unbelievable. All i know is that i can breathe again and dont smell and am no longer made to feel like a social outcast and "Second Hand Smoke Murderer!" thanks for listening.

Relapse is an ultimate lack of self-control. However, an addicted mind is a tricky mind and as this site has detailed, addiction is a brain disease. Some will never fully recovery, living in a daily battle. It IS NOT about "mind-over-matter" but rather it is both Mind and Matter. Relapse is inevitable when a person never accepts the reality/consequences of their substance issues. "If I just take a pill, I will be okay." NEVER! You are starting all over.. btw, Opiates are pure poison and should only be limited to those with terminal illnesses. Deal with it like people did before man discovered how to make a pill. "Regulated Substances" HAHAHA. There is no control once we've lost all control.

Ive been locked up for like six months because smoking and doin drug so dont do it lol

im a huge **n boss and dont even care about smokers and non-smokers
** them all
there not as boss as me

wow, a very good post, i stoped smoking 2 years ago
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Is Truth a lie? I really think people should reasearch for their knowledge instead of falling for the philosophy of unrealiable sources and athorities. Let absolute knowledge transform you instead of letting society corrupt you. Search for identy and purpose or you will just pass through from one emotional turmoil to the next. The real truth is absolute knowledge; even when its bad its the best information you can have. It is a power that can change and define your life.

I love my vape or e cig! Not all juice for your vape cig is created equal. You can purchase soooo many different flavors with or without nicotine. Non smokers are using them for weight loss! The flavors are amazing! How do I know all this? Because I have met soo many people buying them. Thanks for reading cheers!