A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Teen Chronic Relapse Treatment

Teen chronic relapse describes when a teen struggles to maintain sobriety for more than a short period of time. To relapse, a teen must first attempt to commit to recovery – if they can’t seem to stay sober for longer than a few weeks at a time, then a different approach is needed. A teen struggling with chronic relapse may have gone through several different treatment facilities and may have worked with several addiction specialists, yet still can’t seem to stop using.

What Does Chronic Relapse Look Like?

  • Relapsing is normal – over half of all people going through addiction recovery relapse at least once within the first year after their program has ended. However, chronically relapsing is different. Ideally, individuals learn to better control their cravings and avoid factors that contribute to their relapse every time they find themselves going through the recovery process all over again.
  • A teen who chronically relapses will often know almost everything there is to know about their addiction and the recovery process. However, their inability to maintain sobriety doesn’t stem from intellectual ignorance but is more likely to be an issue of not believing in long-term recovery.
  • While chronic relapses may look like a cyclical problem, for many teens, it’s actually a constant state of disbelief. They are willing to go through the recovery process, only to feign their attempt at recovery due to an inherent lack of faith in themselves and the ‘process’. Addressing someone going through chronic relapses requires understanding the possibility that they may be incredibly manipulative.
  • This ties into another issue altogether – a teen’s disillusion with the recovery process does not make them cruel or evil, but simply means they require an altogether different approach to begin with, one that takes into account the fact that they aren’t convinced they will ever be able to beat their addiction.
  • At other times, the idea of recovery may convince teens, but are always struggling with the same circumstances the second they finish rehab. The inability or lack of resources necessary to escape the factors that fuel their addiction further feed into why they chronically relapse.

Signs of Chronic Relapse

teen chronic relapse treatment

Dropping in and out of rehab

teen chronic relapse treatment

Unable to remain clean

teen chronic relapse treatment


teen chronic relapse treatment

Several treatments tried

teen chronic relapse treatment

Lack of interest in recovery after rehab

What Causes Chronic Relapse?

Unstable post-rehab environment – addiction recovery depends on a long-term commitment towards the goals and tenets of recovery. A teen is unlikely to stay sober if the only support they get for their sobriety is within a rehab facility. To stay clean, they need the help and support to stay off drugs while back home, at school, at work, and throughout the first few years outside of rehab. A lack of proper recovery options and a tumultuous post-recovery life can quickly send someone spiraling back towards addiction and lose hope in recovery altogether.

Mental health issues – some individuals with issues with chronic relapse may display exaggerated personality traits and signs of a personality disorder. Their manipulative nature may derive from an inability to properly communicate or understand their codependency, and they may be struggling with much more than an addiction.

Lack of patient-specific treatment – addiction recovery ideally works to help a patient overcome their own challenges in the face of unique circumstances, but not all programs or treatment methods fully take the patient into account. Without patient-centric treatment, many adolescents may fall back towards addiction because the issues and factors that drove their addiction were never addressed to begin with.

Lack of post-rehab care – addiction treatment begins in recovery facilities and rehab clinics, but the treatment must continue and go on past these places. A lack of interest or investment in post-rehab recovery options can often fuel a fall back towards addiction.

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teen chronic relapse treatment


of people with substance use disorders experience relapse


of people relapse in the first year


of people relapse after five years

How Can Teen Chronic Relapse Treatment Help

Promote an environment conducive to recovery – teens cannot be expected to live in rehab forever, and parents are not expected to replicate a rehab environment in their own homes. However, the change from rehab to regular sober living can be jarring, and while it may or may not contribute to a teen’s chronic relapsing, making the transition easier can help them break the cycle. Work with an addiction specialist to determine how best to help your teen and find out what kind of environment they need to continue their recovery.

Explore recovery options after rehab – for teens who struggle with chronic relapses, recovery must continue after rehab. It may take some time to find the treatment options and techniques that your teen best responds to, but there are countless ways to help someone continue to commit to their recovery long after rehab is over. Recovery options include individual therapy, support groups, regular check-ups with a mental health professional, and more. It’s important to understand the severity of what your teen is going through, and the patience needed to recover over time. In cases of chronic relapse, it’s not uncommon for many teens to have gone through many of these recovery options, ‘to little effect’. However, consistency is key. Someone who relapses chronically needs very long-term treatment, with no outside distractions.

Provide the support necessary for progress – it can be very frustrating to watch a loved one go through addiction. And it can be even worse to watch them relapse again and again. You cannot ‘do’ recovery for your teen, but you can support them. The difficult part is figuring out what kind of support they need. Some teens need emotional support, and others need encouragement. And sometimes, the only way to avoid enabling someone who won’t get better is to hang back, and not do anything for a time. Consult a professional to better understand how you might help your teen, and how your behavior might otherwise enable them to continue their addiction.

What Type of Treatment is Available for Chronic Relapse?

Cases of chronic relapse are severe and require immediate and intense intervention. A teen who relapses chronically despite several earnest attempts made towards recovery is obviously missing something. Rather than doing the same thing expecting different results, it’s important to recognize that treatment for someone who relapses chronically will be different than treatment for other addicts.

Evil has nothing to do with it, but many teens who relapse chronically engage in much questionable behavior, from actively lying to and manipulating loved ones to deftly navigating addiction treatment without really making proper progress towards long-term sobriety. People who relapse chronically have often given up hope for one reason or another and are very good at surviving through the good graces of others. Oftentimes, they’re past the point of being frustrated and have moved on to a sense of apathy towards recovery as a whole.

Holistic Mental Healthcare

Helping someone like that requires a multimodal approach that takes their entire mental and physical state into account, and treats them not as addicts, but as deeply troubled individuals. Whether the codependency is a mild but life-long depression, a personality disorder, or something else, a person who relapses chronically needs a professional to help them go deeper than the average recovery program and examine why it is that they continue to go back to using drugs.

Codependency is not uncommon in cases of addiction, but it takes time for a mental health issue to be properly identified, addressed, and treated. Many medications prescribed against mental disorders, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, can take many weeks to fully start going into effect and require regular intake. Antidepressants take at least a month to go into effect, and antipsychotics take as long as six weeks to kick in. A teen who relapses chronically must be treated on the long-term, with consistent treatments depending on their symptoms.

Family Therapy

It’s not uncommon for teens who chronically relapse to have families that they take advantage of, or families that otherwise unwittingly enable their loved one’s behavior. It’s practically mandatory for a mental health professional to analyze how a teen’s family deals with their recovery and ongoing addiction, and how their actions might go on to feed into the teen’s addiction. By working with addiction professionals to determine what your teen needs the most, you can begin changing your treatment of them to better their chances at long-term recovery.

Long-Term Addiction Treatment

A month or two is not enough. After an initial recovery program, teens need a place in drug-free environments for longer. Their family must continue to find ways to help them maintain the schedule and the habits they’ve built inside rehab. Accountability and strictness should be recurring themes in treatment – helping teens establish consistency in their lives and maintain honesty in their interactions with others.

Recovery takes time, and some people are not equipped to deal with the temptation of using so soon after a recovery program. It’s important to speak to a teen about enrolling in drug-free homes, employing long-term outpatient help, or other long-term options to help them enforce sobriety while they work on why they continue to use.

Helping Teens with Chronic Relapse at Paradigm Malibu

Because of the inherent difficulty in providing successful teen chronic relapse treatment, a facility and its therapists must be aware and experienced in dealing with chronic relapses. At Paradigm, our thorough psychiatric evaluation before teens are admitted provides us with a better understanding of the factors involved in a person’s repeated relapses.

An Individual Path

Because chronic relapse is a unique situation, it demands unique treatment, and though we always strive to treat each patient equally, we are also committed to treating every teen individually, and according to his or 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 take into account that more rigorous measures may be necessary as well, from carefully monitoring a teen’s actions and statements to working with them to strictly develop new routines and habits. 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.

Deeper Treatment

Paradigm also evaluates a teen’s progress in treatment by their 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 network in order to help improve and strengthen the environment that the teen must return to. 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.

“ My daughter's stay at Paradigm was life-changing for her. She felt safe enough during her stay that she was able to work on some deep emotional issues which had been haunting her for years. All staff who we had contact with are top-notch. I highly recommend this facility. “

– Jamie L.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Chronic Relapse Treatment

If treatment hasn’t worked yet for my teen, why would it work now?

Addiction treatment is not one-size-fits-all, and different clinics and professionals utilize different treatments, different approaches and different philosophies in treating their patients. While going through treatment several times confirms that your teen struggles with chronic relapses, it does not mean that treatment in general doesn’t work. Certain treatments don’t work, and it’s up to us and your teen to determine the best path forward, with a more intense and holistic view of the problem.

Will my teen ever stop relapsing?

There is no definite answer to this question, and there is little you can do to directly influence your teen’s will to recover. As long as your teen genuinely hopes and believes that they’re going to stay clean, they can continue to work for it and finally reach a point where they feel they’ve overcome the demons of their past. But if that hope is gone and unreachable for them, nothing will help. Helping your teen reignite and maintain the hope that they will get better is important.


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