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Meth Relapse Warning Signs, Prevention, and Addiction Treatment

People who struggle with meth use may seek treatment to help them stop using the drug. But the highly addictive nature of meth can lead to symptoms that persist even after detoxification, which can contribute to relapse.1

Relapse is considered a normal part of recovering from meth addiction and does not mean that treatment has failed, although it can indicate a need for treatment to be adjusted or reinstated.2, 3

Learning more about meth relapse can help you make an informed decision about your health. This page will help you learn more about meth relapse, including why people relapse, signs of meth relapse, and what to do if you or a loved one relapse.

Meth Detox

Insurance does not typically cover detox for meth use alone. Often, insurance coverage requires medical necessity tied to preexisting conditions or polysubstance use. If you are struggling with meth and seeking detox services, you can contact American Addiction Centers at for free to learn more about withdrawal management and ongoing treatment options. You can also verify your insurance now and reach out for more information later.

What Is a Relapse?

Relapse occurs when a person returns to drug use after a period of abstinence.2 Drugs like meth can change the brain’s functioning and structure. These changes can persist even after a person stops using meth, which can contribute to relapse.3, 4

Relapse is considered a normal part of recovering from meth addiction.2 It does not mean that treatment has failed, nor does it mean that a person will never be able to abstain from meth use.2

Addiction is a chronic medical condition with relapse rates similar to other chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or hypertension, but it’s important to remember that people can and do recover.2

Meth Relapse Rates

According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2.7 million people aged 12 and older used methamphetamine in the past year.5 Among people aged 12 or older, 1.8 million people had a methamphetamine use disorder in the past year.5

A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence examined 350 treatment admissions from a large county substance use disorder treatment system and found that 61% of the sample relapsed to meth use within 1 year after treatment discharge, and 25% relapsed during years 2-5.6

Why Do People Relapse on Meth?

Addiction is a chronic, yet treatable disease.2 As mentioned, chronic meth use can affect the brain’s functioning and structure, which can help explain why people relapse even after long periods of abstinence and despite the consequences of meth use.3, 4

Other factors can impact meth addiction relapse as well. For example, behavioral changes prompted by meth use can lead to various problems, such as a lack of impulse control related to meth use, even if a person knows that this can lead to harmful effects.3

Several influences can also play a role in relapse, such as stress at home or work, co-occurring medical or psychiatric conditions, and environmental and social triggers (e.g., seeing people with whom a person used meth with in the past).3 These triggers can make a person want to use again, even if the person is not consciously aware of them.3

Other environmental, genetic, and physical factors can increase the risk of relapse, including, but not limited to:7, 8

  • Using substances at an early age.
  • Having a family history of substance use.
  • Accessibility and availability of drugs.
  • A lack of family support.
  • Peer group influence.
  • Unemployment.
  • Physical illness.
  • Isolation.
  • Being angry, hungry, tired, or lonely (HALT).

Signs of Meth Relapse

People who are concerned about meth relapse should be aware of the warning signs. Relapse often occurs because people are not prepared for what recovery involves. They may mistakenly believe that once they stop using the substance, the worst will be over in a few weeks, and they can ease up on their recovery efforts.8 However, relapse warning signs usually begin weeks or even months before the actual relapse event.9

Relapse is sometimes described as having 3 stages, including emotional, mental, and physical relapse, or the actual relapse event.9  

Emotional warning signs of meth relapse may include:9

  • Isolating from family and friends.
  • Not going to support meetings or not participating while at meetings.
  • Focusing on others’ problems rather than one’s own problems.
  • Poor self-care, such as not getting enough sleep or having poor eating habits.

Mental warning signs of meth relapse may include:9

  • Experiencing meth cravings.
  • Thinking about people and places associated with meth use.
  • Minimizing the consequences of meth use.
  • Glamorizing past meth use.
  • Negotiating with others or oneself to justify reasons to use meth.
  • Looking for opportunities to be around meth.

Physical relapse is when a person starts using meth again.9 Many relapses occur when a person thinks that they won’t get caught using again.9 Relapse prevention involves developing and rehearsing what to do during triggering or unhealthy situations.9

How to Tell Someone You Relapsed

If you relapse, it’s important to be kind to yourself and avoid negative thinking, which can be an obstacle to recovery.9 If you relapse, it’s important to reach out for help, such as:2, 8

  • Talking to someone you trust who is not associated with prior drug use.
  • Consulting your doctor.
  • Seeking professional support.
  • Re-entering treatment.
  • Attending a self-help group, such as Narcotics Anonymous.

What to Say to Someone Who Has Relapsed

If someone you know has relapsed, you can provide support to help them get back on track with their recovery. It’s not always easy to know what to say to someone who relapsed, but some ideas include:10  

  • Expressing empathy and support without judgment.
  • Letting them know they have not failed, and that relapse is a normal part of meth addiction recovery.
  • Acknowledging their honesty and struggle, reminding them of their progress, and encouraging them to seek professional help.
  • Letting them know that you are available to help them find rehabs or re-enter treatment, which can involve inpatient rehab or outpatient addiction treatment.
  • Offering help, such as looking at their relapse prevention plan and seeing what activities they could re-engage in, like going to support group meetings.
  • Encouraging them to be self-compassionate and pointing out the opportunity for a renewed commitment to recovery.

Going to Treatment After Meth Relapse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that addiction recovery is a process, and treatment may require multiple attempts.3 Relapse occurs and can indicate a need for treatment to be adjusted or reinstated.3 Treatment can help monitor a person’s drug use and help them resist urges to use again.3

There are currently no FDA-approved medications to treat meth addiction, so treatment typically involves behavioral therapy.3 Behavioral therapies offered in different treatment settings can:3

  • Re-motivate people to change.
  • Offer incentives for abstinence.
  • Increase the skills needed to avoid drug use and prevent relapse.
  • Help people develop constructive and rewarding behaviors that do not involve drug use.
  • Offer skills training for managing cravings.
  • Help people know how to deal with relapse if it should occur again.

Following a formal treatment program with an aftercare program or some continuing care can help further reduce the risk of relapse.3

How to Create an Effective Relapse Prevention Plan

Creating an effective relapse prevention plan is an important part of recovering from meth addiction. Some useful components of a relapse prevention plan include:8

  • Identifying triggers, such as HALT, and developing positive ways of avoiding and managing cravings and triggers, such as ensuring you get enough rest.
  • Establishing a healthy support network of positive, non-substance-using people and attending self-help meetings.
  • Setting realistic goals to prevent relapse, regularly assessing and recognizing your progress, and adjusting your plan as needed.
  • Ensuring that you prioritize self-care, practice mindfulness, and work on developing healthier habits, such as avoiding addictive substances, eating right, and exercising, as advised by your doctor.
  • Addressing underlying mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Remaining committed to maintaining a balanced, sustainable lifestyle.
  • Seeking professional help when necessary.

Finding Meth Treatment Centers

If you or someone you care about use meth, are worried about relapse, or have relapsed, you may wish to consult your doctor or a qualified mental health professional to discuss treatment. You can also use our rehab directory to find meth addiction treatment centers near you.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment and has rehab facilities across the country. If you’re ready to reach out, please call our free, confidential helpline at to learn more about meth addiction and recovery and talk to a caring admissions navigator about your rehab options.

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