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11 Ways to Tell a Recovering Addict is Using Again

One of the working definitions of addiction is that it is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder. Now, relapse doesn’t have to be part of your recovery but, statistically speaking, relapse occurs at a rather high rate amongst people recovering from drug addiction. That being said, there is a good chance that someone you know will experience a relapse at some point in their journey to recovery. Here are 11 ways to tell a recovering addict is using again.

#1. Shady behavior

One of the ways to tell a recovering addict is using again is if they’re engaging in shady behaviors. And by that I mean, they’re lying, ripping people off, and just acting secretive, in general.

#2. Disappearing acts

They say they’ll be there at a certain time and show up 2 hours late, if at all. Or, you’re already out with this friend and they suddenly disappear. This can mean that they’re using drugs again. Quick story: I once showed up 3 hours late for a first date because I was too busy running around, copping drugs then getting high.

#3. Your stuff (and/or that of other mutual friends) goes missing

You know what’s up. In your active addiction, you probably pulled this one, too. If you and your other friends start noticing that your things are mysteriously going missing, it just might be that someone you know has relapsed and is pawning your stuff to get their fix.

#4. Suddenly sick all the time

Someone who seems to be sick all the time or is complaining some baffling illness that’s suddenly plaguing them, more than likely, it’s actually a direct result of their using. Perhaps it’s pancreatitis from excessive alcohol intake, or chronic hangover, or withdrawals from opiates, aka being dope sick. A coworker of mine at a past job had relapsed but for a time was still coming to work. She’d be sick at work on a daily basis, running to the bathroom to puke.

#5. Missing work

If you notice that your coworker or even employer, who you know to be in recovery, suddenly starts missing work a lot or is habitually late – and this is out of character for them – then it just might mean that they are using again.

#6. Resentful

If someone you know seems to be resentful all the time, it might be an indication that they are heading for a relapse or it could mean that they’ve already started using again.

#7. Irritable/moody

Irritability and moodiness can also be a sign of relapse in a recovering addict.

#8. Sudden shift in personality

If this person usually has a sunny disposition but lately they’re depressed, it just might mean they are heading for relapse or they’ve already begun drinking or using other drugs again.

#9. They’ve stopped working their program

A recovering addict who suddenly stops working their program – they’re no longer going to meetings or talking to their sponsor – could possibly have relapsed or else is headed for one. Becoming complacent, nonchalant or else resentful of their program is a big red flag.

#10. They’re hanging out with their old friends

An obvious sign that someone has started using again is if they’ve started hanging out with their old, using buddies or if they start going to bars or other places that are out of the ordinary for the person you knew in recovery. There’s good reason why we must change people, place, things.

#11. Asking for money

If someone in recovery starts asking you for money, they might have fallen on hard times and might just be a little short for their monthly bills. Of course, it’s at your discretion whether you loan them money or not. But, if they seem to be constantly low on funds and they come to you with an awfully detailed sob story, beware. They might just be trying to manipulate you for money so that they can get high.


Now, any one of or two of these alone may not necessarily mean that a recovering addict is using again. For example, if someone is depressed lately or irritable, it just might mean that they are experiencing a personal loss or some other thing that happens – what we call life on life’s terms. However, if the person is displaying several of these suddenly, go with your gut. It just may mean that someone you know has recently relapsed.

If you are a recovering addict who is experiencing relapse or if you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, help is available. If you’re unsure that your behaviors qualify as either of these medical conditions and just need someone to talk to, call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 and you’ll speak directly with a human being who can answer your questions. You are not alone. Call an Addiction Specialist today.

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