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Relapse Prevention for Teenagers

Addiction is a chronic illness, and recovery is a lifelong process. Sometimes, the bumps along the road can include a return to substance abuse behaviors, such as a relapse or a slip.

What Is a Relapse?

pensive teen looking at drugs

A relapse is defined by the strength and frequency of the addictive behavior. For example:

  • If your teen succumbs to substance abuse on one or two occasions but quickly bounces back, that is called a slip.
  • If your teen falls back into habitual substance abuse and cannot stop the behavior, that is considered a relapse.

Relapse is usually triggered by certain situations, though triggers vary from person to person. For example, the presence of friends who are abusing drugs or alcohol may be a trigger for one recovering teen, while parents fighting may be a trigger for another teen.

Recovering teens need to figure out what their relapse triggers are, and learn how those triggers can be avoided or overcome. An expert recovery team can help, such as the medical professionals at our drug treatment center in Florida.

Relapses are dangerous, but they don’t have to be catastrophic. In fact, if your teen receives the right treatment, a relapse can serve to strengthen recovery. The ultimate goal is sustained wellness that imparts a rich and fulfilling life.

What Is Relapse Prevention Therapy?

smiling group of teenagers

At Next Generation Village, we define relapse prevention therapy as a set of techniques designed to discourage substance abuse behaviors. This form of treatment follows many of the same modalities as traditional rehab but places extra focus on handling relapse triggers and developing coping skills in recovery.

Since no two addictions are exactly alike, we use techniques that are unique to your teen’s relapse triggers to craft an individualized relapse prevention plan. Your teen might learn to call a friend, contact a counselor, meditate, draw, play basketball, or do something else diverting when a relapse trigger hits. The idea is to take control, so your teen doesn’t feel helpless in the face of addiction.

Practicing mindfulness is a proven method of preventing relapse, teaching teens to accept their feelings — whether good or bad — without reacting. When a craving hits, someone practicing mindfulness might:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Take note of their physical discomfort
  • Acknowledge their mental distress
  • Think of something neutral or pleasant
  • Stay still and quiet until the moment passes

How Long Does a Relapse Prevention Program Take?

Since relapse prevention therapy is similar to traditional rehab, it usually takes the same amount of time as a standard program, which can be several weeks to several months. However, relapse prevention may be a little less intensive than initial therapy, because your teen’s treatment team has already set the basis for recovery.

Your teen’s doctor or aftercare treatment team can determine the most effective level and length of relapse prevention treatment.

Reducing Risks of Relapse

young woman lost in thought

A study in the journal Youth and Society uncovered a link between boredom and substance abuse. This supports the importance of hobbies. As part of a relapse prevention plan, teens might be encouraged to pick up engaging activities, such as:

  • Playing a team sport
  • Making art
  • Planting and maintaining a garden
  • Walking the dog
  • Holding a job
  • Participating in a school club

Similarly, a study in the journal CyberPsychology and Behavior uncovered a link between stressful episodes and video game addiction. Studies like this suggest that teens engage in compulsive, repetitive actions when they’re overwhelmed with feelings of stress and unsure of how to alleviate those feelings.

In a relapse prevention program, experts might help teens to learn to identify what stress feels like. They might learn to identify a nervous stomach, fluttering eyelids, and tingling fingers as physical manifestations of stress. When they feel those changes, they know to consider solutions other than their addictive behaviors.

Does Your Child Need Help After a Relapse?

If your child has relapsed during recovery, it’s time to get professional support. Remind your child that relapse does not mean they have failed, but it does mean they need some more help. This time, you may want to consider a more intense treatment program. Look for a facility that offers individualized relapse prevention strategies.

At Next Generation Village, we help your teen engage in holistic treatment programs that treat the reasons behind the relapse. We established our drug treatment center in Florida due to the area’s natural beauty and tranquility, and offer a community of understanding staff and encouraging fellow patients. Many of our patients have also come to us for treatment following a relapse. There is no judgement here, just help.

If you are dealing with relapse in your family, give us a call to talk about your situation. Everything we discuss is kept confidential, and there are no fees or obligations. Whether you need someone to walk you through the treatment process again, would like some help figuring out your family’s insurance coverage for rehab, or simply need a listening ear, we are here for you. Take the first step to bring your child back to health. Just get in touch.

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