signs your teen is using drugs

Signs Your Teen Is Abusing Drugs

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Growing up, our parents seemed to be all-knowing and all-seeing. Any misstep, any hint of a movement away from the straight-and-narrow and we were certain to be discovered. Once you become a parent, however, things aren’t quite so clear. We can do our best bringing up our own children, believe we are doing the right things in order to give them hope and a future, but still they will turn around and make all the mistakes. We want to see and believe the best in our children, but even more so, we love them and we are afraid they are hurting themselves.

When it comes to drugs and alcohol, childhood mistakes are not as simple as getting suspended from school (though that can happen) or missing the curfew. Addiction is life threatening. And when young person begins a relationship with addictive substances, the threat is immediate and carries lifelong consequences—can even lead to fatality.

The simple odds are your child will be exposed to drugs or alcohol before they graduate high school. The teen years are synonymous with explosive physical and mental changes, and the ways they look at the world change in significant ways. The teen years are also filled with tremendous social pressures, and the desire to “fit in” may cause them to engage in behaviors that pose considerable risks. Whether it is due to peer pressure, troubles at home or used as a way to cope with growing expectations, teen drug use can be a common and unfortunate part of the landscape.

If you suspect that your teenage son or daughter is abusing drugs and alcohol, it is cause for major concern. The following are common signs that teen drug abuse is occurring.

1. Physical Changes

Perhaps the biggest sign that your teen is abusing drugs and alcohol are the significant and troubling physical changes that occur as a result of such abuse. If your teen is displaying significant changes in their eating habits and has unexplained weight loss or gain, drug abuse may be occurring. Other physical changes that may include drastic changes in sleep schedule, excessive shaking or tremors, extreme hyperactivity or excessive talkativeness and constant nausea and vomiting.

2. Drastic and Sustained Changes in Emotion

Another common sign of teen substance use is the display of sudden and sustained emotional changes. Teens who abuse drugs often show a lack of interest in family and family activities. Teens may also display obvious paranoia and may become overly secretive or spend many hours by themselves hidden in their room behind locked doors. Additionally, they may become extremely moody, sensitive and may be extremely nervous around family, relatives and others. The degree to which these changes occur can be severe enough to the degree that parents “don’t recognize” their child.

3. Changes in School Attendance and Grades

common sign of drug abuse in teenagers is profound changes in a child’s behavior while in school. Obvious signs of trouble include a sudden increase in tardiness, a drop in grades and significant attendance problems. Teenagers who are abusing substances may also have abandoned their old friends and have adopted an entirely brand new set of friends that parents may not know.

4. Increased Instances of Unexplained Money Loss or an Increase in Money

Drug and alcohol abuse is an expensive habit.

If a teenager is addicted to drugs and alcohol, they will find ways to obtain the money they need to support their habit. That includes stealing money and/or personal property. Parents need to be on the lookout for missing items such as jewelry, game consoles, and computer equipment. There may be instances where teens may be selling drugs in order to support their habits. If this is the case, parents may find money hidden away in clothes drawers or in secret spots. Additionally, parents need to be aware of unexplained charges on credit cards or debit card issues.

5. Drastic Changes in Mood and Personality

In many cases, teen drug use is accompanied by mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. If co-occurring disorders are present with substance abuse, it can be difficult to know which issue came first because many of the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse are similar to the symptoms of mental health issues. For example, depression or anxiety can be caused by drug abuse or be the reason a teenager starts using drugs and alcohol. If a parent suspects there are underlying mental health issues, they need to contact a licensed mental health practitioner.

6. Prescription Drugs Are Missing

Many young people who engage in substance use more often start abusing drugs in their own homes–and they start in the medicine cabinet. Teens who are experimenting with drugs have become very savvy in regards to what types of prescription medications will provide the buzz they seek. If parents notice that prescription painkillers or ADHD medication is missing, it can indicate their teenager may be taking these medications or providing it to their friends. Additionally, teens who abuse prescription medications may also go through the medicine cabinets while at a friend’s house or at a relative’s house.

7. Deterioration In Appearance

Teens who abuse drugs pay less and less attention to their appearance. Parents may notice their teen’s clothes may not be clean and they may have bags under their eyes from lack of sleep. Teens who abuse drugs also fail to practice proper hygiene and have focused their attention towards obtaining drugs. Even though these changes are very noticeable, teens that have become addicted to substances often don’t show much concern about how their appearance is startling to family, friends and others.

Does Your Teenager Need Help With Their Substance Abuse Issues?

If you suspect that your teen is using drugs and alcohol, it is important that you act immediately. Drug addiction is a complex issue that requires the help of experienced professionals that specialize in the specific needs of teenagers.

At First Steps Recovery in Clovis, CA, we have an adolescent intensive outpatient program meets in the evening, four days per week, for three hours per day. We offer state of the art, evidenced-based practices that actively engage teens in their recovery process.

Services include:

  • Initial psychological evaluation
  • Individualized treatment plans
  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy and/or individual drug and alcohol counseling
  • Case management
  • Family therapy, family support groups, and family education.

Don’t wait another day to address your teen’s drug addiction. Call First Steps Recovery, 1-844-489-0836, and speak to one of our addiction professionals today.


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