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Everything a Parent Should Know About Teen Substance Abuse

“Just say no” doesn’t always work. Here’s what to do if you suspect teen substance abuse.

Teen substance abuse is a sensitive subject. Talking to teenagers about drugs is never an easy conversation for parents. Too many parents live under the mindset that their child would never try recreational drugs. However, drug use is more prevalent than most families care to admit. If you’re raising a teenager, here’s everything you need to know about the signs and dangers of drug abuse.

The Tell-Tale (and Often Hidden) Signs of Teen Drug Use

Teens are elusive. They go to great lengths to hide drug use from their parents, and many families remain clueless until addiction spirals out of control. Do you suspect your teen may be using drugs? It’s important to recognize the signs. Be on the lookout for:

1) Suspicious Behavior

Drugs may directly affect how your teen acts, but the warning signs are not always obvious. You may notice subtle changes in their behavior. For example, your child may avoid eye contact during regular conversations. Lying is also common. Staying out past curfew or suddenly hanging out with a new group of friends could also indicate drug use.

You should also keep tabs on your child’s performance in school. Have their grades dropped suddenly? Do they have unexcused absences? Drug use may make it difficult for your teen to focus. Skipping classes to get high may take priority over completing schoolwork.

Teen boy with bad grades because of his drug addiction

2) Unexplained Mood Swings

Teenagers and mood swings are synonymous with each other, but you can’t always blame a bad attitude on raging hormones. Unexplained mood swings could also point to substance abuse.

Teens who turn to drugs may struggle with depression and anxiety. Sometimes the drugs cause depression, but other times, depression leads to drug use. American Addition Centers report that up to one-third of chronically depressed individuals turn to drugs or alcohol.

Teenage girl with mood swings

On the contrary, unusual bouts of elation and euphoria may also be a reason to suspect drugs. Teens may experience extreme highs and lows in their mood for no apparent reason. They may even stop participating in activities they once enjoyed or become more reclusive at home.

3) Changes in Appearance

Substance abuse may cause noticeable changes in your teen’s appearance. Warning signs include changes in weight, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, skin sores, pale skin, or sunken eyes. Poor hygiene is also common among teens who use drugs. Some even stop caring about their looks altogether.

Teenage girl with bloody nose from drug use

4) Physical Symptoms

Many teenagers exhibit physical symptoms while using drugs. Some teens complain of frequent nosebleeds, while others may have tremors or even seizures. When coming down from a high, your child may develop flu-like symptoms, headaches, or an upset stomach. If there is no other explanation for these symptoms, drug use may be the culprit.

These signs of substance abuse may be obvious or subtle. And some are just a normal part of being a teenager. If you notice any unexplainable or sudden changes in your teen, it’s time to talk to them about the dangers of drug use.

The Right Time to Talk to Teens about Drugs

Teenagers don’t come with a how-to manual. Parents must trust their instincts to decide when is the “right time” to discuss sensitive topics, including drug use. While most schools teach about the dangers of drugs, it’s still wise to talk to your kids before they wind up in a difficult situation.

There are many reasons why teens start doing drugs, so it’s important to have these discussions early. In fact, a conversation about drugs should first happen before your child even becomes a teenager. If you notice a television character smoking a cigarette, for instance, use it as an opportunity to talk about the dangers of addiction. When your child is a pre-teen, conversations should become more open-ended, allowing plenty of time for them to ask questions. Listen to your kid and provide them with factual information. Tell them about the different types of drugs, and guide them on how to say no.

Teenagers can handle more in-depth conversations. Don’t beat around the bush. Instead, be very blunt about the consequences of substance abuse. Ensure they know all the risks of drug use, including broken relationships, health issues, incarceration, and death. And always encourage your teen to come to you first if they ever feel peer pressure to try drugs.

However, all the education in the world may not be enough to dissuade your teen from trying drugs. Teenagers like to test boundaries, and young brains don’t always make good decisions. If you have reason to suspect your teen is using drugs, don’t hesitate to have them tested. You can purchase an at-home test or take them to a local drug-testing facility. Some mental health and substance treatment centers also test for substance abuse. If your teen is using, a substance abuse program can determine the severity of the situation and help develop a plan of action.

Mom talking to son about drugs

Your Teen Is Using Drugs – Now What?

Discovering your child is using drugs is a frightening, life-changing event. But it’s also extremely common. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics states that 50% of teenagers will misuse a drug at least once. Whether your teen broke the news in confidence or you found a stash in their room, dealing with the situation is never easy. But having a heart-to-heart conversation is essential. Before speaking your mind, take a few moments to breathe, reflect, and plan. After all, you want to create a safe space where your child feels comfortable sharing their most personal, sensitive feelings.

Confronting your teen about using drugs is a must, but you need to do so in a calm manner. No matter how angry or upset you feel, yelling won’t remedy the situation. Instead, let them know your concerns. Educate them about the dangers of substance abuse and how it can affect them today and down the road.

As a parent, you want to fix everything, but that’s not always possible. Teens often do better talking with someone else. Seeking advice from a counseling agency that specializes in substance use is always the best solution.

A Compassionate Treatment Program for Your Teen

Teenagers who enter a treatment program have better outcomes than those who do not. New Life 360° empowers teens through education, support, and compassionate care. Our holistic approach uses traditional and non-traditional methods to help your teen reach their goals. We treat the whole person, not just the problem. Our clients leave feeling empowered and renewed.

Is your teenager experimenting with drugs? The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can get their life back on the right track. Connect with us online to discover our proven methods for treating teen substance abuse.