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As parents, we want the best for our children. Protecting them from the dangers of the world is our number one priority. From their first steps, to their first days of school, we try to shield them from danger. Once they enter adolescent years, protecting them from the world becomes a much harder job. Teenage drug abuse is becoming more prevalent, and it is quite scary for parents. Since we cannot be with our children every moment to protect them from drug and alcohol use and abuse, we need to communicate and educate them about these dangers from an early age.

Teenage substance abuse problem is a growing crisis in the United States. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, from grades 8th, 10th, and 12th across the country, in 2017 there was a 5.8% use in the 8th grade, 9.4 % amongst 10th graders and 13.3 % among 12th graders. While these percentages are down from the last two decades, it is still a concern.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 74 percent of adults participating in a substance abuse treatment program started using alcohol or drugs before the age of 17. A study in 2015 showed that approximately 58% of high school seniors used alcohol within the last year, and just about 36% had already experimented with marijuana. As for prescription drugs, approximately 12.9% had admitted to prescription drug abuse. Battling a drug problem can cause many issues in a teenager’s life. Drug abuse can affect their friendship, family relationships, career, and academics.

As a parent, it is important that you know and understand the warning signs of drug abuse in teenagers. Knowing the warning signs can help you get your teenager help before addiction has taken over, and their life spirals out of control.

Warning Signs of Substance Abuse in Teenagers

When a teenager is abusing drugs, often behavioral changes occur first, then psychological, health, and later personal appearance.

Behavioral Changes

  • Skipping school or extracurricular activities
  • Decrease in academic performance
  • Acting out in school; getting into trouble
  • Trouble with law enforcement
  • Decrease in activities or hobbies
  • Change in their social scene and friends
  • Separating themselves from friends or family members
  • Being secretive
  • No respect for authority
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Disobedient or violent

Psychological Changes

  • More than normal mood swings
  • Emotional instability
  • Fast or slurred speech
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble with memory or concentrating
  • Paranoid or fearful
  • Drowsiness followed by high energy

Health Issues

  • Change in appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Extreme thirst (cottonmouth)
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Headaches
  • Trouble with coordination
  • Nosebleeds (often caused by snorting drugs)
  • Seizures (without a prior history)
  • Constipation
  • Shakes
  • Tremors
  • Frequent accidents or injuries

Personal Appearance

  • Teeth clenching
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Bruises, sores or cuts
  • Constant scratching
  • Poor coordination
  • Needle marks on the arms or legs (track marks)
  • Wearing long sleeves during hot weather (trying to cover track marks)
  • Unusual odor or smell of alcohol
  • Small pupils (a common sign of opiate use)

What to Do If You Suspect Drug Abuse?

While you may still see your teenager as your ‘baby,’ they are growing up and dealing with adult situations. Some unusual behavior is normal as they are growing and learning how to live in the real world. Behavior changes which may be a sign of drug abuse such as unusual mood changes, changing their type of friends, or dressing differently can be a phase during their process to adulthood. However, it is a good idea to be aware of even small changes. As a parent, you may be the only one who has noticed a change in your child’s behavior. Here are some tips on how to approach your teenager if you suspect drug abuse.

Ask Questions

Before accusing your child of abusing drugs or having an addiction problem, ask them directly. Allow your child to have the opportunity to explain their mood or behavioral changes. It may be hard as a parent to ask questions such as “Are you on drugs?” “Have you used drugs or alcohol?” but it is a parent’s job to get to know what their child is going through, so they can stop any unhealthy behavior.

Before asking these questions, make sure you are prepared to hear the answer if they do admit to trying drugs or having a drug problem.

Drug Test

After you have spoken with your child and they deny any drug use, but you still believe something dangerous could be going on, you can have a doctor screen them for drugs.

Set Boundaries

If your child is using alcohol or drugs the first step is to help them take control of their life again. Be sure to set boundaries to where they know and understand what they can and cannot do, as well as the consequences that will follow if they break these rules.

Addiction Treatment for Teens

As a teenager, dealing with the struggles and stress that comes along with adolescence can be hard. They may think that it is okay to have a few drinks or smoke marijuana to help relieve these stresses, or just because their friends are doing it too. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol they can seek emotional support from professionals, family members or trusted friend.

If your teen has admitted to drug abuse and they are struggling with getting sober, it is important that they seek treatment from a licensed professional. Many teen treatment facilities offer addiction education, support systems, and educational support, so they do not fall behind in their academics. During their treatment recovery, some substances such as alcohol, can have painful withdrawal symptoms. It is important not to attempt to detox on your own and seek a professional’s help. After detox is completed, treatment facilities can help teach recovery skills. Contact an admissions coordinator today at Serenity Acres to learn more about teen drug abuse and addiction treatment.

Common Signs of Teenage Drug Abuse and Use

Some early warning signs of substance abuse may appear in or around your home or vehicle. These signs can include:

  • Finding drug paraphernalia such as needles, prescription drugs, bottles, pipes, rolling papers, eye drops, butane lighters, cut up straws, tin foil, and weighing scales.
  • Drug residue such as seeds, stems or powder
  • Strong smelling perfume is often used to cover up the smell of drugs or alcohol
  • Mouthwash or chewing gum excessively
  • Missing alcohol, cigarettes or medications
  • Missing cash, credit cards or valuable items
  • Finding hidden drugs
  • Skipping school, or the decline of social activities