What is Teen Chronic Relapse?

 Teen Chronic Relapse is when an adolescent has made multiple attempts at sobriety and failed, or returned to drugs or alcohol after a considerable time being sober.  These attempts at sobriety may include time in multiple different treatment settings, and the teen usually has a thorough knowledge of their addiction, its effects, and sobriety.  However, despite this knowledge and their efforts, they continue to return to using and abusing substances.


Teen Chronic Relapse Treatment | Paradigm Malibu


What Chronic Relapse Looks Like

Whereas relapse is a somewhat common experience among teens in treatment, Chronic Relapse is a serious situation that often makes teens and their parents feel that true recovery is impossible.  For teens who chronically relapse, time in treatment seems to have little effect, as their relapse might occur even hours after leaving treatment.  This is, of course, extremely frustrating and discouraging to teens and their loved ones.  Among teens who chronically relapse, there usually seems to be a disconnect somewhere between the knowledge teens have about sobriety and their ability to apply that knowledge to themselves, in order to have a lasting recovery.


For instance, it’s common for teens that chronically relapse to have already been through treatment, and have a substantial amount of knowledge and experience thereof.  This may include things like information on the particular substance, the dangerous effects of the substance, the 12-step program, and other consequences.  Sometimes, teens might even use this knowledge as a manipulative defense against people’s attempts at helping, because they’ve developed a negative attitude toward the idea of “true” or lasting recovery.


Unfortunately, because teens that chronically relapse see recovery as an impossibility, they often approach treatment like a game, and because they’ve had considerable practice, they’re sometimes very good at playing it.  Essentially, they know how to behave in treatment in order to accomplish their own agenda.  They know how to say the right things and act in the right ways, play up or downplay symptoms according to their need, in order to be able to manipulate the staff, break the rules, and influence their peers, all with the final goal being: leaving.  This is of course very problematic because these teens are not only essentially refusing treatment to experience recovery, but they’re preventing others from engaging in their best treatment as well.


It’s important to note that teens who chronically relapse are not behaving this way to be intentionally hurtful or out of cruelty.  Instead, because they’ve experienced such distress from their addiction, their attempts at recovery, and their failures thereof, they now hold extreme bitterness and negativity toward treatment as a whole.  When they’re “playing the game” of treatment and manipulating others at the same time, they’re doing so, not to cause harm, but out of their underlying sense of hopelessness, and their belief that because recovery is impossible, they’re not causing any real problems.



Residential Teen Chronic Relapse Treatment

Because of the inherent difficulty in providing successful teen chronic relapse treatment, a facility and it’s therapists must be aware and experienced in dealing with these teens. At Paradigm, our thorough psychiatric evaluation before teens are admitted provides us with an awareness of the teen’s vulnerability of relapse, before the teen ever arrives. Because chronic relapse is a unique situation, it demands unique treatment, and though we always strive to treat each patient equally, we’re also committed to treating every teen individually, and according to his/her specific needs and background. Therefore, when designing teen chronic relapse treatment, we not only aim to include the best combination possible of classic and experimental therapies, group and individual sessions, and an array of different approaches, but we challenge the teen to directly address their relapse as well as their addiction.  Along these lines, providing accountability so that the teens cannot so easily disengage and just perform the usual act in order to “graduate” from treatment is a key component of Paradigm’s approach.


Paradigm also evaluates all teens’ progress in treatment by the underlying behaviors and beliefs, rather than their outward actions that are commonly studied in centers where a scoring system is used.  We believe that by attempting to treat and evaluate teens on this deeper, more thorough level, we have a better chance of helping teens create breakthroughs into authentic change and recovery.  We simultaneously work with the teen’s parents, family members, and other close members of their support networks, in order to help improve and strengthen the environment that the teen must return to, and within which they must ultimately stay sober, within.  Paradigm also provides unlimited free support services to teens and their families following teen chronic relapse treatment, as a commitment to teens’ full and long-lasting recovery.




If treatment hasn’t worked yet for my teen, is it possible for it to work now?


Yes, it’s possible.  It can also be very difficult.  But it’s important for you, as the parent, to maintain the understanding and belief that recovery is both real and possible.  Furthermore, you need to help them to try again,  with a relentless belief that it can work.  We understand that this kind of support and energy is very difficult as a parent to maintain, and that’s why our sessions and special support services for parents is one of the most important aspects of the treatment we provide to teens who chronically relapse.

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