Being a parent is no easy job. You worry about your children no matter what, and try to raise them to make good choices. To a certain extent, kids will be kids. Most teens experiment with drugs and alcohol. Adolescence is an age where kids have limited impulse control, and overly sensitive reward systems in their brains. But how do you know if it’s gone past harmless experimentation?
5 Signs that Your Child Needs Rehab
If your son or daughter is exhibiting any of the following, or a combination of them, you may need to take an honest look at whether drugs or alcohol could be to blame. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lists many signs that your child may have a substance abuse problem, but here are five key red flags.
- They have been acting differently for no reason—such as acting withdrawn, angry, excessively tired, or depressed.
If drugs or alcohol are taking an increasingly strong hold on your child’s life, you will likely know (at least on some intuitive level) that something is wrong. To a degree, most teenagers tend to withdraw from their parents and have mood swings. But these symptoms are exaggerated in teens that have a substance abuse problem. Hangovers and withdrawal symptoms can cause serious mood and behavior changes, that go beyond normal levels.
- Major (and sudden) changes in peer group or friends.
Another sign to look out for is large shifts in who your teen is spending their time with. If they seem to be spending less and less time with old friends or their normal peer group, and suddenly begin hanging out with all new people, it could be an indicator that they are taking on some new and risky behaviors as well.
- Decline in academic performance.
Drugs and alcohol can be the biggest perpetrators of slipping grades and poor academic performance. Where your child may have once done really well in school, or even just maintained a stable GPA, they may now be showing signs of slipping. Failed tests, poor grades, and a seeming indifference to schoolwork can all be a sign of a larger problem.
- Missing classes or skipping school.
One major warning sign may come in the form of calls from the school. While you may not be able to observe it yourself, especially if your teen has a driver’s license (or friends with cars), skipping school and truancy are not good signs. If your child isn’t in school, and is spending time with others who are also skipping school, there is a good chance they may be spending their days engaged in dangerous or risky behaviors. Ideally, your child’s school will alert you to these absences, so that the problem can be addressed at home, but sometimes the problem has already taken hold.
- Loss of interest in favorite hobbies or activities.
Similar to losing interest in old friends, losing interest in favorite hobbies or activities can also signal trouble. Quitting sports teams or clubs, or discarding treasured hobbies or interests, means your teen is likely trying to make room in their schedule for different activities- and sometimes these take the form of drug and alcohol use. Also, the effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal can also cause physical side effects that can make your teen tired and not capable of participating in their normal activities.
If your teen is showing one or more of these signs, you may need to seek professional help or send them to an inpatient rehab. The first step is usually to talk to your child’s doctor, or talk to an addictions treatment professional for an assessment. Ultimately, some people are just predisposed to addictive behaviors, and your teen’s drug or alcohol use says nothing about how much you love them or have tried to support them. The important thing is that you remain calm, yet firm, and let your child know that you are there for them, but are going to ensure they get the help they need before it is too late.