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5 Relapse Triggers Facing Teenagers in Recovery

Our teenage years can be a very confusing time. Transitioning from childhood to adulthood includes the universal challenges of dealing with puberty, peer and academic pressures, family changes and so on.

The Formative Teenage Years

Teenage years are also associated with a time of taking risks, making mistakes and experimentation. Unfortunately, one of the most common risks taken is dabbling in the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol.

A teen in recovery creates a very delicate and sensitive situation for the whole family. As a parent, family member or concerned loved one, it is imperative to recognize potential triggers that can derail the recovery process.

If you know what to look for, you’re better prepared to deal with the situation and help to get your teen back on track. That said; here’s a look at 5 common relapse triggers facing teenagers in recovery:

Trigger #1  Peer-Pressure

While it is possible to control a teen’s home environment, little can be done when they are not in  a guaranteed risk-free setting. Attending parties or hanging out with an unfamiliar crowd where there is pressure to fit in, can lead to possible alcohol or drug consumption. This can quickly undo all previous efforts to remain clean and sober.

Trigger #2  Overconfidence

While sobriety is an achievement that is the result of dedication and hard work, it also requires on-going maintenance. Teens who have gone an extended period without substance abuse may stop implementing their relapse prevention plan. It’s the age-old attitude of “I’m fine.” Without continued monitoring of one’s emotions and cravings, it becomes easy for a recovered teen to fall back into old habits.

Trigger #3  Stress and Anxiety

There are two types of stress that most teens face: academic stress and stress due to a major life change. When in recovery, teens will learn new ways to deal with the symptoms of stress, such as anxiety and loss of sleep. Without these tools, when a recovering teen is met with a challenging situation, they may turn to their familiar habits in order to cope.

Trigger #4  Low-Self Esteem

Self-pity is a common trait among those in recovery. The first hurdle to conquer is to come to terms with admitting to the addiction. Teens dealing with self-esteem issues may feel like they have failed. Others may feel like this setback will ruin or define the rest of their life, since it’s difficult to conceptualize the years ahead in our youth.

Also, teens can be impatient. Their recovery may not be going fast enough or their recovery plan might feel as if it requires too many sacrifices. In the beginning stages of treatment, it may be difficult for a recovering teen to get past negative emotions and focus on having an optimistic – yet realistic – attitude.

Trigger #5  Social Isolation

Boredom and a sense of loneliness can be emotionally taxing. When in recovery, teens many not engage in their usual social activities or associating with certain peers. It is common for a recovering teen to feel left out or unrelatable to those their age.

During this delicate period, a parent should attempt to spend as much quality time with their recovering teen as possible. Moreover, it should also be encouraged to maintain healthy relationships with trusted friends, develop new relationships with positive support systems, and remove those who may be toxic.


Additional Reading: Teens Using Pot for Medical Reasons Likely to Become Addicted