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The Warning Signs of Teen Drug Use

By the time adolescents reach the 8th grade, 15% have smoked cigarettes, and 28% have consumed alcohol. That’s all before they’ve even begun high school!

Plus, half of the high school seniors don’t think it’s damaging to try cocaine or crack once or twice.

When it comes to prescription drugs, almost 2 in 10 12th graders reported using drugs not prescribed to themselves.

There are many risks and effects of using drugs, especially as developing humans.

Are you a parent who wants to be proactive in knowing what the effects and warning signs of drug use are?

Keep reading to find out what to look for!

What Are the Risks?

Homelife, peer pressure, and stress are all common factors that contribute to the likelihood of addiction.

Before we delve into the indicators for drug and alcohol abuse, it’s crucial to bring attention to the risks associated with abusing drugs, particularly during the adolescent years.

Brain Development

Brain structure, neurocognition, and function alterations are all associated with substance use during adolescence.

When it comes to alcohol use amongst teens, abnormalities have been documented in white matter quality, brain structure volume, and activation to cognitive tasks with as little as 1 to 2 years of heavy drinking (20 drinks per month). 

Drug and alcohol use during adolescent years directly affects the development and growth of teens, especially concerning their brains.

Adult Health Problems

Teen substance abuse often results in the development of health problems into adulthood, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep disorders
  • Heart disease

These effects can have harmful implications for occupational, academic, and social functioning.

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Risky Behavior

Unfortunately, when teens are abusing drugs, those behaviors tend to go hand in hand with other things. 

Unprotected sex and dangerous driving are examples of some of the risky behavior that coincides with teen drug and alcohol use.

Indicators of Teen Substance Abuse

There are many signs and behaviors that indicate your child might have a drug or alcohol abuse problem.

Here are some of the physical indicators that your loved one might have a problem:

  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Poor hygiene
  • Change in appearance
  • Paranoia, irritability, fidgeting, anxiety
  • Nosebleeds or frequent runny nose
  • Changes in attitude or mood
  • Headaches
  • Sores around the mouth
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Extremely hyperactive or tired
  • Puffy, swollen face
  • Difficulty staying focused
  • Pupils that are smaller or larger than usual
  • Cold, sweaty palms (or shaking hands)
  • Track marks on legs or arms

Some of the behavioral indicators that your teen might have a drug problem are:

  • Stealing
  • Asking for money (frequently)
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Breaking or ignoring curfew
  • Locked bedroom doors
  • Making excuses
  • Isolating from others (especially family)
  • Damaging relationships with friends or family
  • Slipping grades and school work
  • Losing interest in activities or hobbies
  • Resisting feedback or discipline
  • Abandoning long-time friends

Some of these behaviors and signs are more obvious than others, and not every symptom is enough of an indicator on its own.

As a parent, it’s vital to be aware and make an effort to take an interest in your child and their well-being. It can seem hard to do so if they exhibit little interest in their family.

Without revealing your suspicion, there are some things you can do to monitor their behavior.

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How to Figure out if Your Child Is Using

Life is busy, especially if you have a teenager and other kids in the house. Here are some other methods for determining if your child is exhibiting signs of teen substance abuse.

Look for Changes in Mood

Aside from being a “normal” teenager, is your child showing any signs of drunk or drugged behavior?

Do you notice they are unusually clumsy after a night out with friends? Are they sullen and withdrawn? 

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Use Your Nose and Look in Their Eyes

Every time your teenager comes home, try to have a face-to-face conversation. If that isn’t possible, at least go for a hug. If they’ve been smoking or drinking, you’ll be able to smell it on their clothes, hair, and breath.

Take a close look at their eyes as you use your sense of smell.

Are their eyes bloodshot or heavy-lidded? Are their pupils dilated? Do you notice any flushed or red color to the cheeks?

Check Out the Car

Are there any new dents or scratches on the car? Are there suspicious smells or paraphernalia anywhere?

Check for evidence rolling around on the floor or hidden in the glove box.

Be Mindful of Secrecy

Do their plans always seem fishy? Are they hesitant to give you a summary of the movie they saw?

When you reprimand them, do they lash out and say it’s none of your business?

These are all signs they could be hiding something.

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Should You Search Their Things?

While it may seem like an invasion of privacy, searching a teen’s room is often a necessary step in confronting substance abuse.

Some of the spots you might want to check are:

  • Between clothes and in dresser drawers
  • Small boxes (jewelry or pencil)
  • Under the bed
  • In between books on a bookshelf
  • Inside other OTC medicine containers (Advil, Motrin, etc.)
  • Inside empty snack boxes or candy bags
  • In makeup cases

Teens are incredibly resourceful when it comes to hiding spots. If you feel silly looking for something, remind yourself that teen substance abuse can have detrimental effects on the brain that carry through to adulthood.

There’s nothing wrong with standing up for and making a choice to help your child get help.

Don’t Underestimate the Effects of Using Drugs

Suspecting that your beloved teen is using drugs or alcohol is a scary thought. But once you have that suspicion, it’s vital to act on it before the effects of using drugs take a severe toll on your growing child.

Look for telltale signs and behaviors that your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol. Remind them how much you love and support them and how important it is for them to get help, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Do you want to know how we can help your teen recover in a unique environment you won’t find anywhere else? Contact us today!

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