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The 8 Most Common Triggers of Teen Relapse and How to Prevent It

The 8 Most Common Triggers of Teen Relapse and How to Prevent It

Recovery is a life-long journey that requires patience, persistence, and support. Recovery will also come with its share of challenges and temptations. Among the most significant challenges are being in situations that trigger your teen to want to use. By educating yourself, understanding triggers, and planning carefully, you can push your teen through the temptations and focus on putting recovery first. Here are eight common triggers to look out for in your teen’s recovery journey.  

#1. Social Pressure

Social pressure about the choice to stay sober may be challenging as an adolescent. If they continue to socialize with the group of friends involved in substance abuse, there is a strong chance many of those individuals still have similar mindsets. If you find that any of your teen’s friends or peers are pressuring them into using again, it is best to stay away from that social circle. 

Hold them to their standards when in social settings. Do not allow them to fall under social pressure. If they do not feel confident in their ability to do this, bring a friend to help them avoid engaging with this social group.

#2. High Levels of Emotion

Your teenager will likely experience a wide range of high and low emotions. These heightened emotions can lead them to decide to use a substance to ease this emotion. If they feel high levels of negative emotions, they may choose to use a substance to help them feel better. If they feel high levels of positive emotions, they might use substances to celebrate.

Relapsing during a state of high emotion is very common. Try to recognize your teen’s emotional state and know when emotions are higher than usual. Use effective coping skills and refrain from using substances as a coping or celebratory factor. 

#3. Surrounding Environment

Being around substances is one of the most tempting triggers that provoke relapse. If your teen is in a situation where substances are present, it can be hard to resist. While attending parties or social events where they would typically use substances, they may develop the craving to use again.

Avoiding these places altogether is recommended to prevent potential relapse, especially early in recovery. If your teen is around substances and does not feel they can say no, advise them to leave the situation. If they are in a setting where they used to use substances previously, and cravings begin to set in, they need to engage in a different activity or focus thoughts on something positive.

#4. Lack of Support

Our support systems play a prominent role in recovery. When you lack a positive support system, you may also lack trusting individuals to remind you to put recovery first. Leading to the first trigger listed, if their social group is pressuring them into using a substance, the lack of support can cause them to fall into a relapse.

Having supportive friends and family to remind your teen of their goals and encourage them to succeed can help in avoiding feeling isolated during the recovery process. It can be helpful to have a social group that engages in sober activities.

#5. Special Occasions

It may be achievable to avoid using a substance on a day-to-day basis, but it can be hard to refrain on special occasions. On birthdays, weddings, holidays, graduations, or any other special occasion that may occur, the desire to celebrate with substances is drastically increased. 

If you notice any special event coming up, make a plan. Plan your teen’s day with fulfilling activities that can help keep their mind off of substance use. By staying busy and having fun, your child can hopefully forget about the desire to use substances throughout the day.

#6. Over-Confidence

When working through recovery, your child may feel confident in staying sober. Confidence is great, but it is important not to assume they are not at risk for relapse. If they are over-confident and choose to attend social situations where substances are present, they may feel that they can refrain from using. This confidence may work sometimes, but many individuals fall into relapse because they were not able to resist using. 

#7. Self-Isolation

Self-isolation can lead to relapse. If your teen is not engaging in activities with others or getting out to do things they enjoy, they may reach a level of self-isolation and feel bored. When in this state, finding something enjoyable to do can be difficult. Using substances may seem like a way to fix this state of boredom and feel less alone. However, participating in enjoyable activities and avoiding self-isolating can help keep the body and mind busy. 

#8. Lack of Understanding Needs

When your teen’s body signals signs of hunger, anger, thirst, tiredness, or any form of physical need, it can be easy to associate this feeling with craving the substance. Ensuring your teen understands what their body is telling them and avoiding using a substance when these other feelings present themselves can help ensure they don’t fall into a state of relapse

There are a variety of different triggers that can arise, causing teens to fall into a state of relapse. Understanding the eight most common triggers can help you become aware of circumstances that may trigger a relapse. At Clearfork Academy, we will help your teen learn how to handle these situations before they occur. We understand that social pressure, lack of support, special occasions, over-confidence, and lack of understanding of physical needs can lead to relapse. Our programs will help your teen and your family understand addiction and help develop the necessary skills to become aware of their triggers and how to handle them. If your teen is struggling to maintain their recovery, then the time to get help is now. You can help them maintain recovery. To learn more about our programs for teens, reach out to us today by calling (888) 966-8604.

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Relapse: Does It Happen to Everyone?

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There isn’t always a simple answer to why someone relapses. Relapse is a common occurrence in the recovery process, mainly because a substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic condition. However, with the right preparation, it is also preventable. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can manage your triggers and cravings to avoid relapse

Relapse Statistics

As an evolving theory, drug relapse entails many details that make it hard to define. Some experts view relapse as a process, while others recognize it as an outcome of an individuals’ actions and choices. 

As a chronic condition, SUD, like any chronic condition, is susceptible to remission. Current statistics on the relapse rates of SUD support this. Studies have revealed that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to substance use within the year following treatment. The same study claims that more than 2/3 of participants in recovery relapse within weeks to months of beginning addiction treatment.

While the statistics might seem high, studies also show that people who remain substance-free after years of sobriety experience a significant increase in long-term sobriety. Being substance-free gives the mind time to heal and adapt without substances. Though cravings never leave, they do drastically subside.

Is Relapse Inevitable?

Preventing relapses requires an understanding of what drives your addiction. Many people consider relapse inevitable in the recovery process. Yet, establishing a firm understanding of your triggers can assist in preventing a relapse. Reasons for relapses vary for each person, especially for adolescents. As a teen, stressors can occur during the exams period, the college search process, social pressure, romantic relationships, and parental issues. Therefore, it is important to recognize these warning signs. 

Some warning signs include:

  • Experiencing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders
  • Stress and anxiety lead to desiring substances to find relief
  • Increased emotional distress and interpersonal difficulties, especially with friends or family
  • Returning to former friendships who use or visit places where substances are available
  • Being around substances at a social gathering such as a Holiday or birthday party

Before these triggers worsen your state or emotions, seek professional help. 

Preventing a Relapse

Re-establishing and protecting your support systems, staying active, and doing something you enjoy can help you stay on track with your recovery. Living a balanced life and not focusing solely on your SUD helps you sustain longer recovery. 

Further, consider the following factors to support prevention

  • Set specific goals
  • Use positive self-talk
  • Change negative habits
  • Establish social support
  • Set boundaries

Review Your Relapse Prevention Plan

If you find yourself struggling to resist drinking or using substances, review your relapse prevention plan. 

Here are some helpful tips for keeping your sobriety on track:

  • Keep a Journal of Your Feelings and Thoughts: Writing your feelings and thoughts down every day helps you process them and make sense of what’s going on in your life. It will also help you make better decisions about how you react to certain events. It can also provide a creative outlet for your creative self.
  • Attend Recovery Groups: Attend support groups for relapse prevention. These meetings help many individuals struggling with SUD gain the tools, wisdom, and support they need to stay sober. You can find options online or in your local community.
  • Create a Plan of Action for Your Recovery: A plan will map your actions for the short term, the long term, and the future. A solid plan will also include coping skills, support systems, and emergency services. When creating a plan, be sure to set reasonable goals and expectations.
  • Communicate: Make sure to maintain contact with your therapist, family members, friends, and peers about your feelings or concerns for support. Having a strong support network will ensure that you have people to call on for help in times of challenge.
  • Attend Therapy Sessions: Therapy sessions are a great way to work through difficult emotions. It helps you learn how to cope with any underlying mental health issues. Make a plan so that attending regular visits will be easier. It’s the best way to keep yourself safe and healthy.

Clearfork Academy Can Help You

Clearfork Academy specializes in relapse prevention and assisting teens who have experienced relapses. We are here to serve you, whether this entails starting treatment for the first time or seeking another chance. Clearfork Academy offers help with every step of your recovery, from identifying warning signs of relapse to connecting you with recovery support groups to evidence-based therapies to detox programs. We can help. 

Relapse may seem inevitable, but taking action will help. Understanding your impulses and triggers is the start to prevent relapse and get you on the right track to recovery. At Clearfork Academy, we offer programs and therapies to help you identify the factors that drive your addiction. We also understand that what drives addiction varies among each person. Therefore, we offer a range of treatments and therapies including, medical detoxes, residential treatment, and outdoor adventures, to ensure that you have the best access to care. Once you identify these triggers, we will help you establish coping mechanisms that will create barriers that resist the temptation to use substances. After completing the treatment program, graduates follow an aftercare plan to sustain their sobriety and recovery. Of course, we remain a pillar of support should you meet challenges on your road to recovery. To learn more about our programs, contact us today by calling (866) 650-5212.

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How To Prevent Relapse

How do we prevent a relapse? This is the question that is asked most often on the heels of substance abuse treatment. After the long road of recovery, we all want to ensure that it is a permanent solution. However, addiction is not so simple. There is no guarantee that relapse won’t happen, because ultimately there is nothing we can do to control the behavior of another person — no matter how much we may wish we could.

While there are no guarantees, we
can take steps to make relapse less likely and to mitigate the emotional fallout if relapse does occur. The first step is accepting that you cannot prevent relapse by force of will or good intentions. 


Set Healthy Boundaries

As parents, caregivers, or friends, you can set healthy boundaries to lessen the likelihood of risky behaviors that could lead to relapse. Communicating your boundaries upfront after your teen leaves treatment is a necessity. Make your rules and expectations clear from the beginning and stick to the boundaries you put in place. 

It can be difficult to do, because empathy plays a factor. Wanting to be lax on rules or allow grace periods is a way of trying to maximize your understanding, but it can often do more harm than good for your teen.

Create boundaries that revolve around timelines, that are realistic, and that are specific. We recommend writing them out and posting them on the refrigerator or somewhere in plain sight — this stability and consistency is a key part of maintaining your child’s recovery.


Give Them Tools For Success

Another way to make relapse less likely is to ensure you are giving your kiddo the tools they need to succeed. Spend time together, discuss ideas, encourage positive social interaction, and help them learn how to manage the big things in life like work, school, and relationships. 


Let Go & Let God

It’s okay to let go of what you cannot control. Be in charge of what you can and let God take care of the rest. A beautiful reminder of this can be found in a prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:


“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did, the sinful world as it is not as I would have it, but trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next.”


Avoid Giving Unsolicited Advice

Always remember that it isn’t your responsibility to control your teen, only to give them the tools to make the best decisions for themselves. Be loving, supportive, and provide words of positive affirmation when you can. 


Avoid the pitfall of giving unsolicited advice; it may not always be received with open arms and can even be distracting to your child. Keep your comments as concrete and supportive as possible.


So, how do you prevent relapse? In a nutshell, you can’t. But you can be there for your child, and let them know the depth of your love and compassion for their struggle. Give them the tools to succeed and let go of the things that you cannot control. Give them your love and give them your support.


If your child is struggling with substance abuse or mental health, we’re here to help. Our clinical admissions specialists are available 24/7 to help with your unique situation. Please call us at 888-966-8604, email us at, or visit our website at



Are you wondering if your teen may have a substance abuse problem? Download our free “Teen Substance Abuse 101” guide. This comprehensive guide will walk you through discovering if your child has a substance abuse problem, and what to do next! Download your free guide here: Download Now