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Signs of Relapse to Look Out for in Your Child

If your child has struggled with a substance use disorder for which they have completed treatment, maintaining sobriety often remains a challenge. Unfortunately, despite treatment and participation in ongoing therapy and support groups, the potential for relapse is always there. According to data provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other similar agencies, as many as sixty percent of people who complete an addiction treatment program will experience at least one incidence of relapse on their journey to sobriety. Knowing and understanding the warning signs of relapse can help parents be better educated on what to look out for if they are concerned about relapse in their children. 

How to Tell if Your Child Has Relapsed

Addiction is considered a chronic disease, and like many other chronic illnesses, there is always a possibility of relapse no matter how long someone has been sober. Once relapse occurs, it can be challenging for your child (or anyone else) to get back on the road to recovery. Relapse is not a sudden event but a process. The process of relapse is generally broken down into three stages: emotional, psychological, and physical. 

Emotional relapse is generally the first stage of relapse. This stage often occurs before your child even considers using or drinking again. During this stage, you may notice increased negative emotions, including moodiness, anxiety, and anger. You may also see changes in behavior, such as a change in sleeping and eating habits. 

These are some of the earliest signs your child may be relapsing or could relapse in the future. It is vital to recognize the signs of emotional relapse as soon as possible as early intervention could potentially prevent actual relapse. The second stage of relapse is mental relapse. During this stage, someone in recovery is frequently torn. Part of them wants to remain in recovery, while another part wants to return to using or drinking. 

During the mental phase of relapse, your child will begin to think about using it again. They will also start to consider how to use it without anyone finding out. Once someone reaches this stage, it can be very difficult to stop relapse from happening. The final stage of relapse, physical relapse, involves actually using. Physical relapse occurs when someone who has been sober breaks their sobriety. Unfortunately, using just once can lead to intense and overwhelming cravings to use again. It is not uncommon for someone who struggles with addiction to believe they can use “just once” without it becoming a problem. Addiction never goes away entirely, and even though your child may think they can casually use, it is (almost always) not the case. 

What to Do if Your Child Relapses

The best way to overcome relapse is by taking quick action. It is essential for your child to recognize that relapse, while a setback, is not a sign of failure. Each incidence of relapse comes with the possibility of evolving into continued abuse which can result in severe physical and psychological health problems. Identifying and understanding why the relapse occurred can help identify gaps in your child’s relapse prevention plan. Most importantly, it is vital to seek comprehensive addiction treatment to help your child get back on track. During treatment, they will have the opportunity to gain further insight into their triggers and learn more about how to better manage triggering events, people, and situations to prevent another relapse in the future.

7 Warning Signs: How to Spot Relapse in Your Child and What to Do

Is your child on the path to a relapse? As a parent, it can be heartbreaking to see your child struggle with substance abuse. It’s important to be vigilant and aware of potential warning signs to catch a relapse early and take action.

One of the key warning signs is a sudden change in behavior or mood. Keep an eye out for restlessness, irritability, or withdrawal from family and friends. Another indication could be a decline in school performance or involvement in extracurricular activities. Pay attention to any physical signs such as bloodshot eyes, unexplained weight loss or gain, or changes in sleeping patterns.

Don’t panic if you notice these signs, but take them seriously and seek help. With the right strategies and support, relapse can be prevented or intercepted at an early stage. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and there are resources available to assist you and your child. So, let’s explore the warning signs together and learn what actions to take to help your child stay on the path to recovery.

Warning sign #1: Sudden changes in behavior or mood

One of the key warning signs of relapse is a sudden change in behavior or mood. Keep an eye out for restlessness, irritability, or withdrawal from family and friends. Your child may become easily agitated or angry, displaying unusual emotional outbursts. They might also exhibit signs of depression or anxiety, which can be linked to their struggle with substance abuse.

It’s essential to approach these changes with empathy and open communication. Let your child know that you are there to support them and listen without judgment. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns, and consider seeking professional help if necessary.

Warning sign #2: Increased secrecy or lying

Another indication of potential relapse is an increase in secrecy or lying. Your child may become defensive when asked about their activities or whereabouts. They might start hiding their phone, deleting messages, or being unnecessarily secretive about their relationships and interactions.

If you notice this behavior, it’s important not to jump to conclusions or accuse them outright. Instead, approach the situation calmly and express your concerns. Let your child know that trust is a two-way street, and honesty is crucial in maintaining a healthy relationship. Encourage open dialogue and consider involving a professional counselor or therapist to facilitate productive conversations.

Warning sign #3: Loss of interest in activities or hobbies

A loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies can be a sign that your child is struggling with relapse. Substance abuse often consumes an individual’s time and energy, leaving little room for other interests. If your child suddenly withdraws from sports, clubs, or hobbies they once loved, it could be a cause for concern.

Take the time to have a conversation with your child and explore the reasons behind their disinterest. It’s possible that they are feeling overwhelmed or facing challenges in maintaining a balance. Encourage them to seek healthier alternatives and provide support in finding new activities that align with their recovery goals.

Warning sign #4: Reconnecting with old friends or bad influences

One of the warning signs that your child may be heading towards relapse is reconnecting with old friends or bad influences from their past. Peer pressure can be a significant trigger for relapse, as individuals who have not fully embraced recovery may encourage your child to engage in substance abuse again.

If you notice your child spending time with old acquaintances who were involved in their substance abuse, it’s crucial to address the situation promptly. Engage in open communication and express your concerns about the negative impact these relationships can have on their recovery journey. Encourage them to surround themselves with positive influences and supportive individuals who will help them stay on track.

Warning sign #5: Neglecting responsibilities or slipping in school

Another warning sign to be aware of is when your child starts neglecting their responsibilities or shows a decline in school performance. Substance abuse can often lead to a lack of motivation, impaired cognitive function, and difficulty in focusing on tasks. If you notice a sudden drop in grades, missed assignments, or a lack of interest in school, it could be an indication of relapse.

Approach this situation with empathy and understanding. Talk to your child about their challenges and offer assistance in seeking academic support. It may be necessary to involve teachers or school counselors to create a plan that accommodates their recovery needs while still maintaining academic progress.

Warning sign #6: Changes in physical appearance or hygiene

Physical changes can also serve as warning signs of relapse. Keep an eye out for any drastic changes in your child’s appearance or hygiene. They may exhibit bloodshot eyes, unusual weight loss or gain, or neglect personal grooming habits. Such alterations may indicate that their physical health is being negatively impacted by substance usage.

Approach this situation with compassion and concern. Talk to your child about their well-being and encourage them to prioritize self-care. If necessary, seek medical assistance to address any potential health issues that may have arisen from substance abuse.

Warning sign #7: Desires or addictive habits returning

The return of addictive behaviors or cravings is a significant red flag that your child may be experiencing a relapse. They may demonstrate signs of obsessing over the substance, engaging in risky behavior, or exhibiting impulsive actions. These behaviors indicate a struggle to maintain sobriety and can be a cry for help.

If you are concerned your child may have relapsed, or you notice signs that indicate a relapse is possible, don’t wait another day to seek help. Reach out to the admissions team at Relevance Recovery to learn more about how our addiction treatment programs can help your child and your family. 

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