Relapse Triggers for Teens in Early Recovery

Yes! That teen wilderness program did wonders for your child. He has literally gone out of the woods with his drug or substance abuse problem. But parents, be warned. Your struggle does not end after your child’s teen summer camp ends. There is a very real possibility of a relapse. It is an addiction, after all.

A relapse can occur, particularly if your teen is exposed to triggers that tempt him to wallow in addiction once more, after having struggled long and hard to be free of this problem. Parents can do well to recognize some of the more common relapse triggers so that they can act to help their vulnerable child.

Relapse triggers

Relapse triggers are situations or events that a teen in recovery can use to justify his return to substance abuse. When a teen goes into relapse, it may be harder for him to bounce back. That is why it is very important for parents to be pro-active as they work with their child to keep him from going into relapse.

Parents, watch out for these relapse triggers (remember, awareness of these triggers is the first step to preventing them):

– Continuous exposure to the substances or its use. Does your teen still hang out with old friends who are known for drug or substance abuse? These “friends” may pressure and tease your child into going back to his old habits. If you allow his continued exposure to social situations that provide access to drugs, he may eventually throw in the towel and give in to his friends’ pressure. Continue being open with your child and keeping tabs of his activities. Also, encourage your child to make new friends and to regain interest in previous hobbies or sports activities.

– Overconfidence. The teen may try to prove his resolve by bearding the lion’s den, so to speak. When they convince themselves that their substance dependence problem is a thing that is entirely in the past, they may become overconfident that they fail to make the necessary efforts to stay sober. When a teen gets overconfident, he may even turn a positive life event (such as getting good grades or accomplishing a goal) into an excuse to relapse.

– Social isolation. Although it is a bad idea to continuing seeing friends who continue to have problems with substance abuse, it is also a bad idea to be isolated from others. Your teen needs positive support and encouragement from those around him, particularly people who are also in recovery and who are part of his therapy sessions or support group.

– Stress. Stress weakens one’s resolve and increases the compulsion to succumb to previous habits. The stress they experience, coupled with a weak coping mechanism, can make them long to go back to the euphoric feelings or relaxation that their substance abuse used to bring to them. Teens need to learn how to more effectively cope with stress. After all, you cannot prevent stress from happening, but you can equip your teen with the skills to deal with it positively.

– Depression. Similar to stress, if your teen is depressed or prone to anxiety, he may start longing for the release of substances he once was addicted to or to try the kind of release “newer” substances can give him.

– Physical pain. This can make a teen more vulnerable to abuse pain management medication. Work with your child to develop healthy physical habits (a good diet, enough sleep and exercise) to condition his body and to strengthen its ability to deal with pain.

– Boredom. Keep your teen busy so that boredom will not set in and have him look for ways to entertain himself. Encourage your teen to be involved in physical activities and adventures, as well as hobbies that capture his interest.

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