Statistics show that between 40 and 60 percent of people who undergo treatment for a substance abuse disorder will suffer a relapse at some point.1 Being aware of relapse triggers for teens can help your teen avoid becoming part of this statistic. Common relapse triggers are situations or people that entice a person to return to using a substance for one reason or another.
At Ember Recovery, we aim to help your teen reach and maintain sobriety. That’s why we will share some common relapse triggers so you can help your teen stay on their path of sobriety by offering helpful coping skills. We’ll also have some tips on what you can do to help them avoid those triggers.
Common Relapse Triggers Teens Face
Relapse triggers for teens can be similar to the ones that adults who have undergone treatment also face. They can include:
When someone is stressed, they will look for ways to deal with it and avoid it. For those battling addiction, returning to their substance of choice is their answer. It can help them take the edge off and escape the realities causing their stress. But this is not the solution because the world’s stress remains once their high is over.
Peer pressure can be extremely strong for teens trying to stay sober. Being around old friends who contributed to their habit can cause a teen to relapse. The best solution is to find friends who support your teen’s sobriety, not their addiction.
Relapses of Opportunity
Many teens relapse in situations where they don’t think they will get caught.2 These relapses of opportunity may be in the form of a party where a teen knows no one will really be watching them. Avoiding these types of situations can help resist these temptations.
Teens may feel isolated after completing a treatment program, leading them to feel depressed and looking for ways to cope with those feelings. They may look for comfort in drugs or alcohol.
While teens should feel proud that they have completed a program and are sober, they should avoid becoming overconfident. When a teen is overconfident, they may not think they still need to see their therapist or attend support meetings. In reality, they still need this support system for their sobriety. Becoming overconfident can erase all of the hard work a teen has done in their program.
Boredom can be dangerous for teens because it can lead them down dangerous paths. When teens don’t know what to do with their time, they may be tempted to revert to their old habits.
Lack of Motivation
Some teens may not feel motivated to stay sober. They may not see what’s in it for them. Showing your teen why it’s important to stay sober and what can happen if they don’t can motivate them to stay the course.
How Parents Can Help Avoid Relapse Triggers for Teens
Parents can take an active role in avoiding relapse triggers for teens by taking several key steps:
Encourage Them to Make New Friends & Find New Interests
Making new friends can be difficult for teens. But, encouraging them to make new friends that are not associated with their addiction can help. Also, help them find new interests. Look for community activities or even some online courses that can lead them to find a new hobby.
Find New Coping Skills
When teens feel stressed, they may turn to a substance to cope. Help your teen find new coping mechanisms such as running, painting, yoga, or anything else that calms them. They will be less likely to relapse as they learn that other things besides substances can help them cope.
Being your teen’s loudest cheerleader will let them know they have the support and encouragement they need to remain sober. If they do relapse, remind them that they have not failed. Rather, they just need to return to their program to get back on track. You can also encourage them to continue to attend their support group meetings to prevent relapse.
Keep Temptations Away
If your teen struggled with alcohol, don’t keep any in your home. Be sure to keep all prescription drugs locked away as well to prevent them from being tempted to use them.
Encourage Good Health
Encourage your teen to eat well and exercise. When we exercise, feel-good endorphins are released, helping us to maintain a healthy outlook. Eating healthy foods will also help your teen remain focused. They will be less likely to stray and relapse when they are focused.
Keep Communication Open
Your teen should always feel like they can talk to you about anything, especially if they’re tempted to relapse. You don’t want them to fear you’ll judge or get angry. This can lead them to relapse. Instead, let them know you’re always there 24/7 to discuss anything.
Don’t Bring Up Their Mistakes
An excellent way to avoid relapse in teens is to not remind them of their mistakes. Focus on the present and the future, not on the poor choices they’ve made in the past.
Get Help for Teen Addiction at Ember Recovery
If your teen needs help with a substance abuse disorder, the team at Ember Recovery is here to help. Our specialized programs are geared especially toward teens and the challenges they face in their recovery. Whether your teen has just started on their recovery journey or has relapsed and needs help to refocus, we are here to help.
Our programs have helped over 5,000 youths across Iowa with their substance abuse problems. We offer residential programs for boys, girls, and for the LGBTQIA+ community. Our therapies include treatment for dual diagnosis, trauma, and multidimensional family therapies. You’ll find the team at Ember Recovery to be professional and knowledgeable. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your teen battle their substance abuse problem.
Sources: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/
Andrea Dickerson is a Licensed Therapist and Certified Substance Use Counselor who has worked in behavioral health since 1997. Currently, Andrea is the Director of Behavioral Health, overseeing the Ember residential treatment programs and YSS outpatient counseling clinics throughout Central and North Central Iowa. She became a Motivational Interviewing (MI) trainer in 2006 and provides MI trainings throughout Iowa.
Andrea specializes in working with adolescents and their families and enjoys seeing the family relationships grow through therapy. Andrea is also a CARF International Surveyor, going around North America ensuring behavioral health organizations are meeting required standards.
In her free time, Andrea enjoys cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes and Chicago Cubs, as well as being an active member of Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA), a global organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment. She has been a member of the SI of Des Moines club since 2012 and has been actively involved at the regional level, currently serving as Co-Governor of the Peaks to Plains Region.
Through her involvement in SIA, Andrea has been actively involved in the Dream Programs, coordinating annual Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls projects, which give girls the tools they need to achieve their education and career goals, empowering them to break cycles of poverty, violence, and abuse.