rippleranch_logo-200x101-1-q6144w15aqyeb8bcxqq9ctly80oko5dqv2hqwrlz40 (1)

10 Coping Skills for Substance Abuse & Addiction

There are multiple different coping skills for substance abuse that you may be able to utilize in order to prevent relapse and stay healthy.

What Are Coping Skills for Substance Abuse?

Coping skills for substance abuse can come in a variety of forms. These are skills that you may develop by yourself or in collaboration with a therapist or group as a way to prevent relapse and stay healthy as you detox. Around one in seven individuals over the age of 12 in the United States report struggling with some form of substance use disorder at any given time. Whether it’s alcohol or an illicit substance, someone can easily become dependent or addicted to drugs. Substance use disorders can make recovery difficult due to a myriad of reasons.1

Table of Contents

Learn More About Ripple Ranch Recovery Center

Our team is standing by to discuss your situation and options. Your call is fully confidential, and no obligation is required

Relapse and Recovery

Because of the nature of substance use disorders, relapse can be a common part of the recovery journey as well. However, despite its frequency, relapse still poses a risk for many health problems. As a result, developing a better understanding of addiction and coping skills for substance abuse is a significant part of recovery.2

What Is the Cycle of Addiction?

Although addiction looks different for everyone, there is often a common cycle that occurs. Without the right coping skills for these stages, this cycle can lead back to addiction despite an otherwise successful treatment plan.


According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, around half of all individuals in the United States have tried an illicit drug at least once in their lifetime. It can take only a single time of abuse to develop a dependency on a substance, which can lead to the development of substance use disorders and addiction. 3
This part of the cycle is when a person is actively dependent on a substance.


Once an individual with a substance use disorder decides to seek treatment, they will begin detoxification. This is a natural process in which the body begins to eliminate any remains of the substance in the body. There is no specific timeline for detoxification, as it depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of substance abuse.
During detoxification, individuals will experience a syndrome that is known as withdrawal. This happens because with substance use, the body and the brain learn to adapt to the new substance being introduced to the body. Certain substances cause the brain and central nervous system to respond in certain ways. For example, stimulants can cause the brain to produce higher amounts of dopamine, a natural brain chemical that can produce euphoric effects.4

Understanding Detox and Withdrawal

Over time, the brain and body get used to these varying levels of chemicals. As a result, when detoxification occurs, the body can respond negatively. These changes in chemicals, and the body’s recovering dependency on the substance, can cause a variety of symptoms. These can range in severity and include everything from nausea and aches to psychological cravings.


Relapse often happens to more people than we may think, regardless of their treatment plan. This is because relapse isn’t due to a lack of willpower and determination, nor is it the result of incorrect coping skills. Instead, it is seen as a common part of recovery simply because of the addictive nature of substance use disorders.

What is Relapse?

Relapse is when someone who is in recovery for a substance use disorder returns to previous thoughts and behaviors, such as using a specific substance again.

Stages of Relapse

Relapse isn’t always physical. In fact, many people may go through relapse without ever actively engaging in substance use. This is because a relapse occurs in three different stages.
  • Relapse Through Thoughts: During the thought stage of relapse, the individual may not even realize they’re relapsing. Instead, they’ll experience difficulty navigating their emotions. They may encounter daily stress and frustrations that they may not be able to face, especially with the right coping skills for substance abuse. 
  • Relapse Through Behavior: If a relapse is not prevented at the thought stage, it could lead to a change in behavior. Behavioral relapse is more noticeable than the previous stage, although neither stage includes active substance use. At this point, the individual may be skipping their therapy appointments or purposefully exposing themselves to risk factors. 
  • Relapse Through Controlled Use: The last stage is physical relapse through controlled use. Here, the individual will feel torn, as they have relapsed into substance use but harbor guilt and even shame about their use. As a result, this can lead to controlled use that is likely minimal compared to their use before starting treatment.

What Are Relapse Risk Factors?

One of the main causes of relapse is situations or events, known as risk factors. These can be internal or external, and they can come in a variety of forms. One of the best ways to combat these risk factors is through learning coping skills for substance abuse.

External Risks

External risks exist outside of the individual. These can be difficult, if not impossible, to control, and they’re more common in outpatient programs rather than inpatient.

Some external risk factors someone may experience include:
  • People they used to use substances with
  • Places 
  • Objects, such as drug paraphernalia 
  • Activities or situations

Internal Risks

Internal risk factors happen inside the mind and body of the individual themselves. Typically, this has to do with feelings. Without proper coping skills for substance abuse, it can be challenging to navigate internal risks, which can include:
  • Negative feelings, such as stress or boredom
  • Normal feelings
  • Positive feelings may even be responsible, depending on who or what they are associated with
coping skills for substance abuse

10 Coping Skills for Substance Abuse Recovery

Coping skills for substance abuse are an important part of treatment and relapse prevention. There is no single formula or skill that can completely eliminate the risk of relapse and promote recovery. However, these 10 skills can greatly help the individual along their journey to recovery:
  • Learn to Relax in Any Situation
  • Wait to Respond
  • Be Honest with Yourself & Others
  • Mindfulness & Meditation
  • Keep Busy
  • Keep a Daily Journal and Gratitude List
  • Exercise Regularly & Live an Active Lifestyle
  • Build a Sober Support Network
  • Avoidance of Risk Factors
  • Help Others

Get Help For Developing Coping Skills for Substance Abuse at Ripple Ranch Recovery

Navigating substance use and achieving long-term sobriety can be a daunting process. However, it’s not a process you have to undergo alone. Ripple Ranch Recovery Center is a professional rehabilitation center that offers a wide variety of mental healthcare services, including more information on treatment for substance use disorders and ways to develop coping skills for substance abuse.

To learn more about the services we offer, contact us today. We will be with you every step of the way during recovery and detox.