Six Ways to Help Your Teen Get Back on Track After a Drug or Alcohol Relapse

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Addiction is a lifelong struggle. After completing drug or alcohol treatment, teens are still at risk for relapsing. In fact, 40 to 60 percent of people relapse after treatment. But there is hope! Read on to learn six ways you can help your teen get back on track once he or she has relapsed.

What is a Relapse?

A relapse is when a recovering addict returns to using drugs or alcohol with the same frequency as before he entered treatment, influencing him to give up overcoming his addiction.

A slip is when a teenager uses a drug or drinks alcohol on one occasion. This is common. Experts compare it to being on a diet and “slipping” at a party by eating a piece of cake or a few cookies. However, slips can lead to a relapse, so it must be dealt with. Often those recovering from addiction falsely believe they have their addiction under control and one drink or getting high once won’t hurt.

  1. Get Your Emotions in Check

    Seeing your teenager return to using drugs is frustrating. The road to recovery is long and stressful. It can feel like all that hard work just went down the drain. So before you talk to your child, talk to someone to get your own emotions in check. That way, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to listen to and help your teen.

  2. Talk to Your Teen

    Happy friends together outdoorThe problem needs to be acknowledged, even if it’s just one drink. Begin with questions like, “Can you tell me what’s going on? I know you had a drink last night.” or, “What’s leading you to go down that path again?”

    If they blow you off or make an excuse, make it clear it’s unacceptable. Explain that slips and relapses are common. No one recovering from addiction, whether they’ve stayed clean for 20 months or 20 years, can handle going back to occasional drinking or drug use.

  3. Find Out What’s Going On

    There may be a combination of events or feelings that contributed to the relapse, or maybe it was an isolated incident, like a relationship breakup. Does she need help dealing with emotions like anger and frustration so she won’t revert to self-medicating? She could be struggling with rejection or communication skills.

    Look at your teen’s schedule. Is she over- or under-scheduled? Are her grades falling? Is she hanging out with friends who use drugs or alcohol or has she isolated herself?

  4. Seek Help

    Next, talk to your teen’s counselor or doctor and decide if he needs to go back to in-patient therapy or outpatient counseling. Long-term treatment helps to greatly reduce relapses. If he isn’t part of a support group or he’s been skipping meetings, take him yourself and read a book in the parking lot until the meeting is over.

    Schedule an appointment to make sure your teen doesn’t have an underlying medical condition or mental illness, like depression. Treating underlying conditions is a key component of recovery. Your teen may need more than one professional involved in his recovery. If your teen repeatedly relapses, ask a professional about medications that can help.

  5. Involve Your Teen

    Teenage girl with her DadIt’s her recovery—ask for her input. If she doesn’t like one support group for a legitimate reason (maybe she wasn’t comfortable in a mostly male group), look for another one. Encourage internal motivation by working with her and brainstorm ways to overcome her addiction together that work better for her.

  6. Keep Calm and Stay Supportive

    Although your teen needs some structure, being overly scheduled can cause anxiety and lead to a relapse. A calm, relaxed-paced environment is more effective.

    Stress to your teen recovery is a long-term process and you’re there to support him. Be with him during trials and triumphs!

We’re Here to Help!

Does your teen need support in dealing with her relapse? Pyramid Healthcare is here to help! Contact us for more information on our Rehab After School outpatient support groups for teens. Together, we can help your teen stay on the path to long-term recovery.