Why Do Relapse Dream Occur?

Why Do Relapse Dream Occur?

Dreaming of drugs and alcohol? If you are in recovery from a substance abuse disorder and are having frequent addiction relapse dreams, you are not alone. Many people who are now sober will have addiction relapse dreams even years after completing a standard or luxury substance abuse treatment program. For many recovering addicts, having dreams about using drugs can be unsettling, so what causes drug relapse dreams and how do you stop them?

Why Do Drug Relapse Dreams Occur?

Although they have been studied extensively, dreams as a whole are still a mystery. For years, scientists have argued over the reasons why dreams occur as well as what they mean. Using dreams are not any different. In a survey of people in recovery for a substance use disorder, one third reported having addiction relapse dreams.1 Although using dreams are so common in recovery, the science behind them is less clear. There are several possible causes of drug relapse dreams, but no one knows for sure.

Some scientists argue that dreams are a series of random signals from the brain that are transformed into one cohesive story. These random signals are a result of information gathered throughout the day and are the brain’s way of trying to process this information.2 According to this theory, one of the possible drug relapse dream causes is that, although you are in recovery, drugs are still on your mind. Because your substance of abuse was such a huge part of your life before getting sober, it is natural to think that during early recovery especially, you would still be thinking about these substances periodically throughout the day. At night, your mind is simply recalling these instances and incorporating them into your dream.

Other scientists believe that dreams are strongly connected to memory processing and memory consolidation where multiple experiences are combined. Dreaming may be an example of the mind working through this process.3 For people in recovery, one of the drug relapse dream causes could involve the mind trying to consolidate recent experiences involving drug triggers with old memories from the days of addiction.

Others believe that dreams have psychological meanings and involve our subconscious mind trying to work through deep-rooted problems. This theory too, could be one of the causes of drug relapse dreams as many people in recovery also struggle with co-occurring mental health problems that led them to substance abuse in the first place. Just because they are now sober doesn’t mean that all of these issues are now fixed or that their sobriety is secure. Especially if they didn’t go through dual diagnosis treatment, these problems may still rise to the surface. Dreams about relapsing could be a sign that there are still underlying mental health issues they need to address or that they are at risk of relapse.


Stopping Drug Relapse Dreams

There may not be anything you can do to stop drug relapse dreams, but they do typically become less frequent as time goes on. For some people, these using dreams may simply disappear the longer they are in recovery. In this case, time may be the best medicine.

Nightmares may also be the result of poor sleep and pre-sleep habits. Creating a healthy sleep routine in recovery may be able to help you avoid some of these dreams about relapsing.

Because some people argue that dreaming of doing drugs is one of the first signs of relapse or that you are becoming complacent in your recovery, it is important to be active in your sobriety immediately following a relapse dream. Many people find comfort in talking it out in a recovery meeting or with a trusted friend.

At our inpatient drug rehab in Florida, we believe that treatment at our luxury facility is just the beginning. We not only help people overcome their substance abuse problems, but also prepare for life outside of rehab and everything that comes with it. From drug relapse dreams to addiction triggers, we prepare you for long-lasting sobriety.

If you or someone you love has a substance use disorder, take the first step to recovery today. Call 561-677-9374. At Seaside Palm Beach, we are here to help.



Science Direct – Drinking and drug-use dreams in recovery tied to more severe addiction history

Medical News Today – What does it mean when we dream?

SagePub – Relationship between Dreaming and Memory Reconsolidation

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