Teenagers are known for sometimes being surly, distant, and secretive. As a parent, do you know how to tell when your teen is just acting like… well, a teen, and when their behavior is a sign of a bigger problem?
Do you know how to tell if your child is using drugs?
After all, 50 percent of high school students have tried marijuana, and 20 percent of high school seniors admit to having taken prescription medications without a prescription. It will surely shock you to know that that American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends substance abuse screening beginning at the tender age of nine!
We don’t offer these statistics to scare you, but rather to get your attention. Now that we have it, stick with us. You’re about to learn the seven most common signs of teen drug abuse.
How to Tell if Your Child is Using Drugs: Early Warning Signs
While you could confront your child, dig through their room looking for evidence, or insist that they take a drug test, these behaviors can actually cause more harm than good.
Before taking these drastic measures based on a hunch, you’ll want to make sure you have a solid reason to think your child has a drug issue. If you’re still concerned after reading these seven warning signs, you’ll want to explore treatment options and then carefully start a conversation with your teen.
1. Behavioral Changes
As children make the shift from adolescence towards adulthood, they’re bound to display some behavioral changes. While many times this is perfectly natural, the following behaviors might indicate a need for concern:
- Significant increase in arguments with siblings
- Frequently lashing out in anger
- Disappearing for hours or even days
- Constantly asking for money
- Driving recklessly
- Hanging out with a new group of friends
- Locking doors, sneaking around and avoiding eye contact
- Incessant sniffling, fidgeting, or erratic behavior
- Very fast or significantly slow speech or slurring
- Drastic changes in appetite
- Lack of coordination, stumbling, balance problems
While some of these behaviors might just be a part of typical teenage defiance, most of them are a definite cause for further investigation.
2. Mood Shifts
As hormones change, most teenagers deal with a wide range of emotions that they sometimes struggle to reign in. However, when paired with drug or alcohol abuse, these peaks and valleys are very magnified.
A child who’s frequently depressed could be struggling with a mental illness or abusing drugs. On the other end of the spectrum, frequent excitability and restlessness could also indicate a problem.
Moods shifts are to be expected and aren’t always cause for concern. However, you’ll want to pay close attention if they’re extreme and occur in addition to several of the other warning signs listed.
3. Changes in Personal Appearance
When drugs take hold, addicts often neglect their personal appearance and hygiene. If your child has suddenly stopped showering and started neglecting to do basic things like combing their hair and brushing their teeth, you might want to take a closer look at what’s going on with them.
Your teen might also start showing up with unexplained bumps, scrapes, and bruises that happened while under the influence. He or she might have bloodshot eyes, a red, flushed face, and wear long-sleeved shirts even when it’s hot outside. On the other hand, if your teen starts chewing gum, using mouthwash, and wearing a lot of perfume or body spray, it might be an attempt to cover up the smell of alcohol or marijuana.
4. Problems at School or Work
Teens on drugs often start to slack on their school work. You’re likely to start getting calls from teachers or the principal and might see a significant decrease in grades.
Arguments with other students, physical confrontations, and skipping school are all warning signs that something is going on. Calling in sick to work, not showing up, or getting fired are also red flags. Whether the issue is drugs or something else, these are behaviors that you’ll definitely want to address right away.
5. Health Issues
Drug use creates an array of health issues in both teens and adults. Some issues you might recognize include:
- Frequent bloody noses
- Runny nose not caused by a cold
- Shaking or tremors
- Constant lip-licking
If your child is displaying any of these physical symptoms, insist on a doctor visit. You might mention your concerns to the doctor before the appointment and then let him or her assess whether there’s cause for worry.
6. Secretive Acts
All teens crave privacy, but there’s a fine line between wanting to be independent and blatant secrecy. If your child is taking mysterious calls, constantly hiding behind closed doors, and refusing to tell you where they’re going and what they’re doing, these could all indicate a more serious issue.
7. Evidence Around the Home
Take a close look around your home for items of concern. This could include paraphernalia, wrappers, foil, and rolling papers.
You’ll also want to look around your home to make sure nothing is missing. Check your medicine cabinets and liquor cabinets to confirm that nothing is missing. If you’re concerned that there might be an issue, consider locking up alcohol and prescription medications or just taking them out of your home.
Remember that drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, and a child who’s suffering needs help. If you have a family history of substance abuse, your child is also more vulnerable. This means you’ll need to keep your eyes and ears open and avoid the trap of denial.
Are You Concerned About Your Child? Take Action Today!
Now that you understand how to tell if your child is using drugs, it’s time to take action. Start by learning more about the family’s role in addiction recovery then give us a call at 866.916.3211 to talk to one of our addiction specialists.
Addiction is a serious problem, but you don’t have to confront it alone. Don’t wait any longer, reach out to us today.