Preventing Relapse in Recovering Youth

relapseThe National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the relapse rate for addiction is between 40 and 60 percent—a notoriously high number.[1] Among young adults, especially those who began using drugs in early adolescence, the rate is even higher.1 This population normally has weak social support networks, abuses multiple drugs, and have co-occurring mental health disorders.1 They often lack the positive predictors of success, including academic achievement and a healthy peer group, and this increases the risk of relapse.1 Helping these individuals who are highly prone to relapse need to have special care taken to move into recovery and a long, sober future.1 Scientific research understands the treatment process and what works and what does not.1

This Doesn’t Work: Treatment programs that are highly confrontational and boot-camp style normally use coercion to get their results.1 However, they are further damaging the young patients’ self-esteem, placing them at a high risk of relapse after discharge.1 Although the patients may comply with the orders, they don’t learn to internalize the need for change.1

This Works: Young people with addiction need help learning how to develop the internal motivation to change.1 They need to understand the solution to really wish to work towards it and change.1 Instead of silencing them, treatment is the most effective when they feel safe opening up and allowing them to be vulnerable.1

This Doesn’t Work: Treatment programs that focus solely on substance abuse ignore the often co-occurring mental health disorders that also need treatment for relapse rates to decrease.1 In fact, as many as 70 percent of young adults have co-occurring psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.1 With these disorders unaddressed, they contribute to their substance abuse problem, as self-medication is a huge reason for using.1 Therefore, relapse rates dramatically increase when the mental disorder is ignored.1

This Works: Integrated, dual-diagnosis treatment that addresses substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders are the most effective treatment programs out there.1 A coordinated group of professionals from multiple disciplines need to work with the patients at the same time, seamlessly delivering substance abuse, mental health, and wellness treatment.1

This Doesn’t Work: Drug treatment programs, or rehabs, are not a cure for addiction.1 Therefore, treating the disease as an acute illness will not help to prevent relapse in the future.1

This Works: Addiction is a brain disease; therefore, long-term treatment that includes support groups, therapy, outpatient treatment, a sober living home, and vocational training have shown that their presence drastically reduces the risk of relapse in many.1 Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease.1 There are triggers that need to be avoided, social support to be built, and mental health disorders that need to be treated.1 A simple 30 to 45 days in rehab will not cure a person.1 It is the stepping stone for the next stage of recovery.1

A successful recovery means equipping people with the tools they need to pause, reach out for help, and get back into their treatment program if relapse does happen.1 Young adults are vulnerable and need effective care.1

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