Adolescents who are in recovery for substance abuse face many challenges when they step down from inpatient treatment and return home. The structure they are used to during inpatient treatment helps them stay on track by providing a controlled environment. Once they return home, there will be a major adjustment phase. During this adjustment period, they must work on integrating a similar structure into their home life and adopting the new normal they became used to in treatment.
It’s not uncommon for adolescents to struggle with the temptation to return to alcohol or drug use during this critical transition. As their treating professional, you can work closely with the adolescent to help them understand the temptations they may face and the consequences there will be for crossing the boundaries that have been set for them. The goal is to help them realize that there are other, healthier ways of coping than substance abuse.
Preventing Relapse Is A Primary Goal
For adolescents who enter treatment for substance use disorder, relapse prevention is one of the main goals in treatment. It’s important to remember, however, that no one is perfect. Relapses can and will happen, which is why it’s so important to address this issue with the adolescent.
In a study published by the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers call for relapse to be considered a “clinically significant change point in a course that can cue an individual to carefully consider one’s status in the recovery process.” In other words, instead of viewing potential relapse as an utter failure, it’s important to discuss with the adolescent so there is a plan of action if the situation were to occur. Furthermore, the researchers of the study emphasize the importance of identifying signs that an adolescent may be at risk for a relapse. These include high-risk situations, a lack of healthy and effective coping skills, low self-esteem, and previous relapses.
The more understanding you have of what can lead to a relapse, the better equipped you are to spot a potential relapse. For adolescents in particular, social pressures are a huge factor in potential relapse. The urge to fit in with their peers, as well as ongoing peer pressure, can lead adolescents to resort back to substance use. Adolescents who have co-occurring mental disorders are also at a greater risk of relapse when they are amidst a negative emotional state. By helping your adolescent client understand the temptations they may face once they step down from a high level of care, they can better understand the situations they will be in, how to prepare for them, and how these situations can impact a potential relapse.
Understanding Major Relapse Categories
The study mentioned above outlines five major relapse categories that adolescents often face:
- Negative Intrapersonal
o Coping with frustration or anger
o Coping with fear
o Coping with depression
o Coping with boredom
o Concern about responsibility
o Feeling like a failure
- Negative Physiological States
o Coping with pain
o Coping with illness
o Coping with injury
- Other Intrapersonal
o Getting high
o Testing personal control
o Giving in to temptation in the presence of cues
o Giving in to temptation in the absence of cues
o Coping with frustration or anger
o Feeling criticized
o Feeling rejected
o Disappointment in others
o Tense around others
o Nervous or uptight around the opposite sex
- Social Pressure
o Coping with direct social pressure such as an offer of substances
o Coping with indirect social pressure such as cues but no offer of substances
Finding the Right Approach for Treatment
The researchers concluded that the adolescents who were included in the study generally fit into two different classes: positive-social class or aversive-social situations class. While studying post-treatment relapses at the 6-month and 12-month mark, however, the researchers found that about half of the adolescents who relapsed did not relapse as a response to the same set of circumstances the second time around. This led the researchers to conclude that adolescent relapse prevention treatment should take a general approach before addressing client-specific situations.
Because adolescents tend to gravitate toward social situations, it’s important to highlight how healthy cognitive and behavioral approaches to avoiding relapse in a social setting can help the adolescent manage the temptation they may face. This can be done by encouraging the adolescent to develop relationships with peers who do not engage in substance use and reminding the adolescent that they have the control to remove themselves from situations that are not healthy for their recovery. They also do not need substances to reach the emotional states that they are seeking. This is where you as a professional can help them strategize and find healthy alternatives to substance use.
Sustain Recovery’s programs are so much more than just adolescent sober living. We offer quality care for adolescents who are struggling with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental disorders. Our care is personalized to each adolescent that we treat to ensure their individual needs are met. Working together, we identify the areas in need of support and provide treatment goals to address their recovery needs. At Sustain Recovery, our goal is to help adolescents stop the cycle of relapse, so they can live the happy, healthy, and sober lifestyle they deserve. If you have an adolescent client who might benefit from our programs, call us today at (949) 407-9052.