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3 Signs of Drug Addiction to Look For as Parents of Teens

Few things can grip a parent with such abject fear as the idea that their teenager is using and drug addiction in teens. While you want to see your child grow and flourish, you also want to protect them from harm. And though we want to give them the support they need to achieve their dreams, illicit substances can lay waste to all of our best-laid plans.

Indeed, we are all only too aware of the chilling and sometimes fatal consequences of drug or alcohol addiction. It’s no wonder why we dread them so much, as the last thing that any parent wants is for their child to suffer. And knowing that they’re struggling as they go through the painful withdrawal process can be incredibly heartbreaking.

Knowing all this, most concerned adults—including parents, teachers, and other authority figures—do believe that it is never too early to intervene. And the sooner that you can send your child to one of many drug rehab facilities, the better.

If you notice your teen exhibiting signs of a drug addiction, make sure they get help from a professional who can guide them towards a lifestyle free of substance abuse. This is an issue you should deal with as soon as possible.  You can’t always be with your teenager, but you can make a difference by talking with them about the risks of substance abuse. Let them know that you are proud of them for making the right choices and living a healthy life.

However, it can be difficult to tell a typical teenager’s behavior apart from the early warning signs and symptoms of drug addiction. The topic is also an incredibly sensitive one that may make it challenging for grown-ups to broach. Nevertheless, erring on the side of caution is still the best course of action, especially if drug use is suspected. If you suspect that your child may be suffering from a substance abuse disorder, here are a few of the telltale signs of drug addiction in teens:

If you suspect that your child may be suffering from a substance abuse disorder, here are a few of the telltale signs of drug addiction in teens:

Changes in Behavior and Mannerisms

Several studies attest that the earliest warning signs for teenage drug use and abuse have to do with the teen’s behavior and mannerisms. However, it’s easy for adults to confuse these behavioral changes with the kind of truancy that’s normally associated with teenagers. Still, it’s important to take note of them, as they are some of the most obvious indications that something may be amiss.

Some behaviors to watch out for include dropping long-time friends and suddenly changing their social circle. Teenagers who abuse substances may also become uncommunicative with family members, choosing to withdraw from family events, gatherings, and bonding activities that they previously enjoyed. They may start locking themselves inside of their room or skipping family mealtimes more often as well.

Drug-seeking behaviors can also become more apparent if the teen starts violating house rules and curfews. In most cases, a teen seeking substances will make up stories and invent excuses to throw concerned grown-ups off their trail. It is also common to catch teens engaging in petty theft to sustain a drug habit.

Additionally, certain psychotropic drugs can set off uncharacteristic behavior in teens. Some of these drugs can cause teenagers to have unusual or violent reactions to trivial matters or simple requests, for instance. With this in mind, keep an eye out for inappropriate, excessively defiant, or caustic reactions that may be out of place given the situation.


Changes in Mood and Personality

Teens struggling with drug addiction may exhibit several shifts in their mood and personality. As previously mentioned, they could become abnormally aggressive or hostile under the influence of drugs or when experiencing withdrawal symptoms. They may also start to appear sullen, depressed, or demotivated, seemingly without reason. Their relationships with family members, school staff, and members of the community can also suffer as a result of drug abuse.

On the other hand, certain drugs can have the opposite effect, causing teenagers to exhibit unusually high levels of energy and elation. Some are capable of lowering inhibitions and making the user braver and more confident than usual. Adults should also keep a close eye on sudden mood swings as well as abrupt personality changes in teenagers, as these may be signs of illicit drug use.

teen with drug addiction
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Changes in Hygiene, Physical Appearance, and Health

Physical changes are some of the most obvious signs that a teenager may be addicted to drugs. For instance, a teen may suddenly gain or lose weight inexplicably. Other observable changes can include poor oral hygiene, a frequently runny or bleeding nose, and changes in skin tone and quality, among others.

Concerned adults may also want to look out for bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, or pinpoint pupils as well as unexplained bruises, wounds, or track marks. Pay attention to their clothing choices as well, as a  drug-using teenager may choose to cover these marks up with long sleeves even in warm weather.  If you’re concerned about a change in your teen’s behavior or health, you could also contact a local drug or alcohol rehab center for more information about which signs to look for.

When it comes to something as serious as drug abuse and addiction, it’s best to spot these signs sooner rather than later. This is because casual drug use can turn into unhealthy patterns of behavior all too quickly, and can very well happen right under your nose. Hence, knowing what to look for and acting immediately can ensure that you’ll get your teen the help that they need before the condition can worsen.


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TWL Working Mom

Jennifer is the owner of TWL Working Moms. She is a full time teacher, a mom & step mom, and NBCT Facilitator. Jennifer lives in Washington State and is a born + raised New Yorker. In her spare time, she loves traveling, yoga, the beach, writing, listening to books and drinking coffee.

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  1. I am so not looking forward for the teenage years! Luckily my little one is only 1 so I have awhile to go! These are great tips!

  2. This post is so informative, and timely, especially when social isolation is a trigger for drug abuse. Thank you ? I

  3. Thank you for this informative post on such an important topic. I wish parents would never have the NEED for a post like this, but I hope this information can help someone who needs it.

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