A common question people have in addiction recovery is whether dreams about using again is a sign they are going to relapse. The dreamer may believe she has actually relapsed and wake up feeling relieved, or possibly distressed that it was all a dream. Dreaming of relapse is actually extremely common in addiction recovery. One study found that after seven weeks of abstinence, 84 percent of participants were having drug-related dreams. Since some people almost never remember their dreams, the percentage may be even in higher. What’s more, the study found people in recovery had far more dreams about using than people who were still actively using. The frequency of using dreams fell off after seven weeks, but after six months, half of abstinent participants were still reporting dreams about using drugs. There does appear to be some connection between dreaming about using drugs and actually relapsing. However, the relationship is not straightforward. The study above found that people with the most dreams about using drugs had the most intense cravings and were most likely to relapse. A later study confirmed this finding. The catch is that these studies looked at recovering opioid and cocaine users, who typically have intense cravings and high relapse rates anyway. Another study, this one of people recovering from alcohol addiction, found that frequent relapse dreams indicated a lower likelihood of relapse. It may be that these dreams helped strengthen the resolve of people trying to stay sober. What’s most important is how you respond to a relapse dream. If you wake up feeling relieved that you didn’t actually relapse, you’re probably doing fine. However, if you wake up feeling disappointed that you didn’t actually use, that may be a warning sign. While you certainly can’t control this initial reaction, you think about what you might need to change in your approach to recovery. It may also be a good idea to discuss it with your therapist or group. Often, relapse dreams are reactions to triggers in waking life. Stress, in generally, is a trigger for most people, and if you’ve been experiencing stress in your life, you are more likely to dream about relapsing. Drugs or alcohol may have been your primary means of coping with stress for years; it only makes sense that your subconscious, habitual mind would go there when you feel stressed. A relapse dream might also be caused by some trigger that didn’t consciously register. We’re only aware of a small percentage of what our senses perceive in a given day. While our sleeping brains are processing this vast amount of data, they may encounter a trigger that we hadn’t noticed. Recording these dreams and exploring what’s behind them may be a way to better understand your vulnerabilities.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.