Factors of Relapse: Triggers
In the field of drug rehab, the word ‘trigger’ means a place, a person, a type of event or any experience that activates a craving for drugs or alcohol. A smell, like the odor of alcohol or marijuana, can serve as a reminder of past drug abuse in the same way that the sweet sugary smell outside a bakery stimulates a desire for a pastry. A sensory experience all by itself can trigger a strong craving for drugs.
Drug rehabs have varying methods of helping a person deal with triggers. Some rehabs encourage a person simply to avoid triggers, but this is not always possible. One has to return to real life. Consider the diversity of common triggers:
- Locations where one bought or used drugs
- Locations, where one was arrested or watched someone else, get arrested for drugs
- Locations where someone overdosed or got sick from drug or alcohol abuse
- Places where crimes were committed to get money for drugs, for example, family members’ or parents’ homes
- Former places of employment where drugs were abused or crimes took place
- Former drug-using associates
- Former drug dealers
- Former drug-using girlfriends/boyfriends or spouses
- Stressful situations that used to be solved by drug or alcohol abuse
- Entertainment venues where drugs or alcohol used to be used or are currently being used
- Drugs, alcohol or drug-using paraphernalia
- The smell of drugs or alcohol or sight of other people using them.
Some of these triggers might be avoidable, but some people are highly sensitive to trigger situations. A woman who resembles a former wife might be enough to trigger cravings in a man struggling to stay sober. Music or smells that remind one of past events can be enough.