Recognizing and understanding the signs of drug use in teenagers can help parents act more quickly to protect their children against these illegal and harmful substances. Adolescence is a time of rapid physical changes and hormonal urges that can be difficult to resist. As a result, some teens make impulsive decisions that can prove dangerous to their health and physical development. By identifying signs of drug use early, parents can help their children avoid the worst consequences of these poor decisions and provide support to help them kick the habit. Here are five common signs of teenage drug use to help parents in this crucial task.
New Faces, No Faces
Teens on drugs typically begin to associate with a different group of friends or to isolate themselves entirely from social contact. While change is normal and to be expected during adolescence, a sudden shift in the social activity or social circle of a teenager should be regarded as both cause for concern and an opportunity to discuss social pressures with the child. By expressing interest in the teen’s social interactions, parents can provide an opportunity for the child to ask for help or discuss his or her issues in a loving and safe environment.
The onset of puberty can turn even the most open and talkative child into a sullen, silent teen. However, drug use typically exacerbates this tendency and may lead to almost pathological secrecy and paranoia on the part of teenagers. Communication is the key to breaking the silence; however, teens who are already hooked on drugs may be unwilling or unable to discuss the situation openly with their parents.
Check The Medicine Cabinet
Teens who use drugs often accumulate bottles of eye drops, mouthwash and other masking products in order to conceal the symptoms of drug abuse. Some teens use incense or room freshener sprays to hide the smell of drugs in their rooms, while others simply try to mask the evidence of drug use by using eye drops to make bloodshot eyes less obvious and mouthwash to hide the telltale smell of certain illegal drugs. Parents should check the medicine cabinet for missing medications as well; many teens start using prescription drugs before moving on to illegal drugs, so this may be an early warning sign of an impending problem.
Most teenage drug abusers have difficulty concentrating on daily tasks. As a result, grades and academic performance typically fall sharply when teens begin to use drugs. Athletic performance may suffer as well, and teens may begin to miss important practices, scheduled tests and other required events. An emerging pattern of school truancy and poor academic performance should be a red flag to parents that the teen is experiencing problems and should be given help, whether those problems are drug-related, social, or based on other factors.
Specific drugs produce differing effects that can sometimes be identified by parents. Marijuana use typically causes red, bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils along with an attendant increase in appetite. Weight loss and irritability are symptoms of cocaine, methamphetamines and other stimulants and may be accompanied by rapid speech, difficulty in communicating coherently and an increase in violent or aggressive behaviors. Hallucinogens may cause inappropriate verbal responses by teens or erratic behavior due to altered perceptions under the influence of the drug. The characteristic heroin “nod” is perhaps the most dramatic sign that a teen is using; it typically resembles a sleepwalking state or a near-sleep lack of responsiveness when the child is physically awake. Paranoia, mood swings and changes in breathing and heart rate are present in most cases with all of these drugs and may be considered further evidence that the teen has ingested chemicals that are interfering with normal bodily functions.
For parents who suspect their teens may be using drugs, it’s essential not to try to address the problem alone. By providing a network of support to help the teen beat his or her addiction, parents can set the stage for recovery and help teens navigate the hazards of adolescence successfully and without lasting harm.