Euphoric recall, or the act of remembering events positively, increases the risk of relapse. Find out how addiction recovery can be hindered through changes in the brain centers that control processing of environmental cues.

How people remember things shapes their behavior during later situations. This is particularly true in cases of substance abuse because of the way drugs change learning centers in the brain. One of the biggest challenges in early recovery from substance abuse is euphoric recall.

What Is Euphoric Recall?

Euphoric recall refers to the tendency of people to remember past events in a positive light. During euphoric recall, people also tend to not remember the negative things associated with those past events. It is a sort of selective memory for the good instead of the bad.

Its Effects on Addiction

Euphoric recall happens because addiction affects the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a large structure within the limbic system that is responsible for memory formation, storage and retrieval. It also plays a particularly large role in the processing of spatial and environmental cues. When addiction occurs and alterations in the brain result, it changes the way a person processes context. Context, simply defined, is all of the features that make up a certain environment. During euphoric recall, people remember contexts differently.

The hippocampus has ample connections with brain regions such as the nucleus accumbens, which is a large part of the addiction circuit. Because of these connections and actions of dopamine within these circuits, when a person remembers contexts incorrectly it makes them more susceptible to addiction behaviors.

Euphoric recall thus has the ability to affect relapse and recovery. Because of this, addiction recovery can be difficult, especially during the early stages of recovery.

Its Influence on Relapsing

Euphoric recall can lead to relapse because, when people remember contexts incorrectly, it makes them more likely to return to those contexts. When back in the environment associated with drug cues, euphoric thoughts make people more likely to relapse.

Overconfidence about being in these environments is also a contributing factor to relapse. Scientists believe that these feelings of euphoria also precede strong cravings when in these environments and are a key aspect of vulnerability to addiction.

The euphoric recall relationships within the brain and their effects on contextual processing make the early stages of drug recovery very dangerous. Furthermore, the effects of euphoric recall on alcohol relapse are just as strong.

Recognizing the Risk of Euphoric Recall

Euphoric recall greatly increases the risk of relapse during the recovery process. Relapse triggers such as positive memories in an environment associated with drug cues can be a big hurdle for many people. However, relapse prevention can be accomplished through the recognition of euphoric recall.

By being mindful of the cues and triggers that precede relapse, it is possible to reduce the risk of relapse. Recognizing euphoric recall can also give a person time to contact their support system, which also reduces the risk of relapse.

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Editor – Rob Alston
Rob Alston has traveled around Australia, Japan, Europe, and America as a writer and editor for industries including personal wellness and recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Brooke Dulka, PHD
Brooke Nichole Dulka is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She received her PhD in Biological Psychology at the University of Tennessee in August 2018. Read more

Everitt, Barry J.; Robbins, Trevor W. “Neural systems of reinforcement for drug[…]habits to compulsion.” Nature neuroscience, 2005. Accessed September 28, 2019.

Redish, A. David; Jensen, Steve; Johnson, Adam. “Addiction as vulnerabilities in the decision process.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2008. Accessed September 28, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.