A Parent’s Guide to Teenage Drug Addiction

26. February 2016

Over 50% of new drug users in the United States are under the age of 18. Experimentation is part of life and the maturing process, not all teens who try drugs will become addicted but their chances of becoming addicted are much higher than adults. Many teenagers will try drugs for various reasons; peer pressure and curiosity are the two most common. They may also experiment with drugs to deal with stress, to cope with emotions they don’t understand and as a means to escape.

Many teens will experiment with alcohol and marijuana, others will experiment with more dangerous drugs like prescription pills, cocaine and heroin. 60% of teens who use drugs get them for free from a friend or relative. Prescription pills have become an epidemic in this country especially amongst teens. Everyday, 2,500 people aged 12-17 will try a prescription medication for the first time. This includes pills like Adderall, Oxycontin, Percocet and Hydrocodone. Teenagers who are consistently reminded about the dangers of drug abuse and addiction are 50% less likely to use drugs.

Knowing the Signs

depressed teen girl

Being a parent of a teenager is hard enough, if drug addiction is added to the equation it can become a very stressful and emotionally draining issue to handle. It’s never easy to get information from your teenager, so knowing if they are abusing drugs can be difficult. Knowing what to keep an eye out for will help you determine what exactly is going on with your son or daughter. Drugfree.org compiled a list of the easiest to notice signs of drug abuse and addiction amongst teens.

Personal Appearance

  • Messy, shows lack of caring for appearance
  • Poor hygiene
  • Red, flushed cheeks or face
  • Track marks on arms or legs (or long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks)
  • Burns or soot on fingers or lips (from “joints” or “roaches” burning down)

Personal Habits or Actions

  • Clenching teeth
  • Smell of smoke or other unusual smells on breath or on clothes
  • Chewing gum or mints to cover up breath
  • Heavy use of over-the-counter preparations to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation, or bad breath
  • Frequently breaks curfew
  • Cash flow problems
  • Reckless driving, car accidents, or unexplained dents in the car
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Locked doors
  • Going out every night
  • Secretive phone calls
  • “Munchies” or sudden appetite

Behavioral Issues Associated with Teen Substance Abuse

  • Change in relationships with family members or friends
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Mood changes or emotional instability
  • Loud, obnoxious behavior
  • Laughing at nothing
  • Unusually clumsy, stumbling, lack of coordination, poor balance
  • Sullen, withdrawn, depressed
  • Unusually tired
  • Silent, uncommunicative
  • Hostility, anger, uncooperative behavior
  • Deceitful or secretive
  • Makes endless excuses
  • Decreased Motivation
  • Lethargic movement
  • Unable to speak intelligibly, slurred speech, or rapid-fire speech
  • Inability to focus
  • Hyperactivity
  • Unusually elated
  • Periods of sleeplessness or high energy, followed by long periods of “catch up” sleep
  • Disappearances for long periods of time

School- or Work-Related Issues

  • Truancy or loss of interest in schoolwork
  • Loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, or sports
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work
  • Complaints from teachers or co-workers
  • Reports of intoxication at school or work

Health Issues Related to Teen Substance Abuse

  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny nose, not caused by allergies or a cold
  • Frequent sickness
  • Sores, spots around mouth
  • Queasy, nauseous
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Wetting lips or excessive thirst (known as “cotton mouth”)
  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Skin abrasions/bruises
  • Accidents or injuries
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Sweatiness

What to Do if Your Teen is Using?

parent and daughter talking

If your teen has come to you and admitted that they are having issues with drug addiction try not to overreact. It’s very hard for them to come forward and admit there is a problem. If you get angry and lash out you may prevent them from being honest with you, which will make it harder to find a solution.

Explain to your teenager that you care about them and you want what is best, you want them to have a bright and happy future. If their drug abuse has escalated and become an addiction their best chance at a better life will be to attend an inpatient treatment center. They need to learn how to live a new life without drugs. They need to learn life skills and to how have fun in recovery, you can help guide them through this process and give them a fresh start.

Are You or a Loved One Struggling?

If you think your teenager is struggling with drug addiction then do something about it today. Addiction is an epidemic in our country, innocent lives are lost everyday. Contact Intervention Services now at 1-877-478-4621 to start the process of getting help for you, your family and your loved one. You don’t need to wait for things to get worse. An intervention can stop the pain and chaos and help bring peace of mind to you and your family.