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Warning Signs of Relapse and What to Do as a Parent

August 26, 2016


This blog is written by one of our family therapists, Justine Johnson, RMFTI, RMHCI.

Are you fearful about your teen relapsing after treatment? Are you scared that you won’t be able to help or recognize the signs of relapse? If so, know that those feelings are very typical for anyone who has a loved one that has struggled with substance abuse. In addition, these fears are understandable due to the pain and fear their substance use may have led to prior to treatment.  

As a parent of a child who has struggled with abusing drugs or alcohol, it’s extremely important to be aware of the warning signs of relapse. Knowing the signs will not only help you catch it early, but also to be proactive if it happens. 

Here are the most common signs that your teen may have relapsed: 

  • No longer wanting to participate in aftercare services (i.e. PHP, IOP, AA/NA meetings, individual and/or family therapy)
  • Engaging in negative behavior(s) (i.e. dishonesty, lack of motivation to go to school, withdrawn from family, loss of interest in sports or activities, etc.)
  • Spending time with old peers who they used drugs or alcohol with
  • Change in hygiene, sleep, and/or appetite
  • Lack of routine or schedule 
  • Mood instability (i.e. irritated, defensive, denial)
  • Isolation 
  • Withdrawing from family and/or positive supports
  • Discussing having one drink or using substances just one time
  • Glorifying past substance use
  • Overly confident about recovery
  • Appearing as though they are experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • In addition to the above, it’s also important to keep in mind the common signs of teen substance abuse. This includes changes in behavior, appearance, school or work performance and health issues. 

We understand how frightening and frustrating it can be to find out that your teenager is back to their old ways. If you notice any of the above signs, it’s imperative that you take action early by doing one or more of the following:

  • Talk with their therapist or PHP/IOP director to establish if more services can be provided
  • Talk directly with your teen about what you see happening and express your concerns
  • Consider conducting your own intervention, including family members, clergy, coaches, neighbors, or any other positive supports in order to address their change(s) in behavior
  • Seek treatment again for your teen  

Relapse can indicate a lack of readiness to be outside the structured treatment environment. Going back to an inpatient substance abuse treatment facility will help your teen develop the additional coping mechanisms needed in order to remain sober when they return to their home environment. 

Remember, when addressing your teen, it’s extremely important to remain calm and show your concerns. If you attempt to interrogate them about the situation or mainly show anger, they will likely engage in a power struggle with you or shut down completely. A soft approach without accusations is more likely to bring about a healthy conversation about what is happening and how to move forward.

You are not alone in this struggle. If you’ve discovered your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, it’s time to reach out for professional help. Our admissions counselors are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have: (844)319-5239

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