Early warning signs your teen is using drugs and how to help.
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
The most devastating thing for a parent is to see their child fall prey to addiction. It takes a while for the effects of drug abuse to show, but there are early warning signs that parents can look out for.
Even when you’re not sure, trust your gut and reach out for help. Liaise with Behavioral Health Centers to get you and the child the resources needed to assist in the early detection and prevention of addiction. What are the early warning signs of drug use in teenagers?
Sudden changes in mood or personality
If your once happy and outgoing teen is withdrawn and irritable, it could be a sign that they are using drugs. Drug use causes paranoia, anxiety, and depression. The person gets angry quickly and has sudden mood swings. They might also get into fights, not get along with friends and family, and complain about everyone mistreating them.
Because a sudden change in mood can result from other things (hormonal changes, for instance), look at the behavior as a whole. If there are other signs of drug use, then mood changes are more likely to be related to addiction.
Sudden changes in appearance
A sudden change in appearances, such as drastic weight loss or gain, bloodshot eyes, or bodily sores, can be warning signs of drug abuse. The child might lose interest in their appearance and neglect personal hygiene.
Teens using drugs often have a disheveled appearance and might wear the same clothes for days or weeks. They may be too lazy to care about their appearance or too high to notice how they look.
Their room, car, or personal belongings might also be in disarray. Drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, bongs, rolling papers, lighters, and roach clips, might be out in the open or hidden in their belongings.
Changes in school performance
If your teen’s grades start to slip or they stop caring about school, it could be a sign of drug use. They might cut classes, come in late, or not turn in homework. They might also lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Teens using drugs often have difficulty focusing on anything other than getting high. Teachers may complain about their behavior or lack of class participation. They might also get into trouble in school for fighting, stealing, or vandalizing property.
Changes in friends and social activities
If your teen starts hanging out with a new crowd, it’s cause for concern. They might hang out with older kids or those known to use drugs. They might stop hanging out with their old friends or participating in activities they used to enjoy.
Teens using drugs often withdraw from family and friends and become more isolated. They’re secretive, particularly about their whereabouts and who they’re with.
Changes in sleep patterns
Teens using drugs often stay up late and sleep during the day. They might have difficulty falling or staying asleep and always seem tired. Drug use can cause fatigue and make concentrating or paying attention hard.
When addiction sets in, the person might start to obsess about using drugs and have difficulty thinking about anything else. It means they cannot stick to a schedule, further interrupting their sleep patterns.
Changes in eating habits
Drug use can cause changes in eating habits. The person might lose their appetite, eat more, or have sudden cravings for specific foods. Drug use can cause weight gain or weight loss and lead to malnutrition. As the drugs affect body organs such as the liver and kidneys, they can also cause changes in how the person metabolizes food.
What to do
Helping your teen overcome drug abuse requires a delicate balance. Be supportive while also maintaining clear boundaries. Be sure to:
Talk to them
The first step is to talk to your teen about what you’ve observed. Let them know you’re concerned and explain why. Approach the conversation in a non-judgmental way and avoid confrontations. Be open to hearing their side of the story.
Get professional help
If your teen is using drugs, get professional help. Drug abuse is a severe problem, but treatment prevents long-term consequences. Treatment options include therapy, medication, and support groups.
Set clear rules and consequences
Explain to your teen that there will be consequences if they use drugs. These might include losing driving privileges, being grounded, or terminating extracurricular activities.
Follow through with the consequences if they do use drugs. When they get into legal trouble, don’t bail them out. Letting them face the consequences of their choices is vital in helping them learn from their mistakes.
Help them find new activities
Encourage your teen to find new activities to replace drug use. Let them join a sports team, take up a musical instrument, or volunteer for a cause they care about. Helping them stay busy and engaged will make them less likely to turn to drugs. Encourage them to find new friends who don’t use drugs.
Staying involved in your teen’s life is crucial. Know where they are and who they’re with. Keep the lines of communication open, so they feel comfortable coming to you with problems.
Recovery from drug abuse is a long process. Be supportive throughout the entire journey. Attend family therapy sessions and offer emotional support. Let them know you love them and are there whenever they need you.
Don’t give up
Walking through this rough patch with your teen is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. However, if you stay involved and offer support, you can help them get through it. Research and understand the addiction as much as possible to help them fight this battle. Also, find yourself a support group for families dealing with addiction. It will help you immensely.