As a parent, of course you want the best for your children, and it can be heartbreaking to see them putting themselves at risk. Fortunately, there are several common signs of drug use in teens that you can watch out for. It is important to note that these indicators are not guarantees that your teen is doing drugs, nor is the absence of them a guarantee that your child is drug-free.
If you do notice any of these warning signs, though, there is a good chance that there is something going on in your child's life that may require greater attention from you. Read on to learn some of the most common signs that your teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
When your teen comes home after a night out with friends, take a few minutes to have a conversation face to face. If your teen has been drinking, you'll be able to smell the alcohol on their breath. Similarly, you'll be able to smell cigarette or marijuana smoke on their clothes or in their hair. With the smoke odors, you don't necessarily need to jump to the conclusion that your teen is smoking; it could be that they were just around others who smoke. Keep an eye out for other warning signs to verify your concerns.
Changes to the Eyes
When your teen is under the influence, you may notice changes to their eyes. The whites of the eyes could become bloodshot or the pupils could become dilated or constricted. Your teen's eyelids may look a bit droopy and they could have difficulty staying awake in a manner that is inappropriate for the time of day. Finally, your teen might have trouble focusing or they might make a point of avoiding eye contact.
Evidence of Reckless Driving
If your teen has his or her own car or drives yours from time to time, watch out for any new dents or scratches that you cannot explain, as this could be a sign that your teen is driving unsafely. If your vehicle has a teen driving monitoring feature, watch for sudden changes to the way your teen drives, like speeding where they usually drive normally, heavy braking or rapid acceleration. Of course, it could just be that your teen is feeling more comfortable behind the wheel with more experience and, thus, is willing to take more risks while driving, but if these behaviors seem to happen after a certain point in the day or after hanging out with certain friends, drugs or alcohol could be the culprit.
Sudden Change in Grades
If your teen was once a straight-A student and is suddenly bringing home Cs, it could be that drugs or alcohol are taking them away from their studies. This could be true if their grades have suddenly gone up as well. Prescription medications for attention deficit disorders have become popular among students seeking more energy and focus to help them study. Be sure to check in with your teen to ensure they aren't pushing themselves too hard with classes that are more challenging than they can handle. If the difficulty level of their classes has remained constant, a sudden change in their grades could indicate drug or alcohol use.
If your teen is using, you may notice that their moods fluctuate from one extreme to another, like laughing hysterically, seemingly at nothing, or suddenly breaking down in tears for no apparent reason. In many cases, these mood swings may seem to be completely unrelated to what is going on at the time. Of course, teens are notorious for being moody and irritable, even when they are not on drugs, so watch for other signs to corroborate your suspicions.
If your normally chatty teen suddenly becomes reserved and withdrawn, it is possible they may be hiding something from you. If every question you ask is met with complaints that it's "none of your business," you may need to probe more deeply. As a parent, your child's behavior IS your business, no matter what your teen believes.
Watch for discrepancies between what your teen tells you and what you see on their social media feeds as well. Other possible warning signs could include hanging up the phone or closing a laptop the moment you walk into a room, covering their phone screen whenever you walk by or showing increased concern for personal privacy.
Overuse of Scented Products
Perhaps your teen just discovered perfume or cologne and hasn't yet learned that less is more when it comes to fragrance. In this case, all your teen may need is a simple lesson from you as to how to properly apply these types of products. However, it is also possible that your teen is using scented products, like incense or air freshener, to mask the smell of smoke or alcohol. Take note of whether this overuse of scents is a constant issue or if it only happens at certain times of the day or after your teen returns from being out with friends.
Presence of Drug Paraphernalia
This is one of the easiest ways to identify that your teen may be using drugs. Depending on your parenting style and relationship with your teen, you may or may not feel comfortable searching their bedroom. However, you don't necessarily need to conduct a full-on search. Pay attention to any unusual smells when you are putting their laundry away, and listen for sounds of scrambling when you knock on the door. This could be a sign that your teen is trying to hide something before you enter. When checking prescription bottles for expiration dates, watch for anything unexpected, anything not in your child's name or for different types of pills in the same bottle.
It is not just the drugs themselves that you need to be on the lookout for; look for drug-related paraphernalia as well, like rolling papers, short straws or rolled up dollar bills, burnt teaspoons, syringes and other items. People who don't use drugs typically do not have these types of items, so the presence of them is a strong indicator that your teen is using.
Change in Circle of Friends
The high school years are some of the most formative in a teenager's life, so it is common for teens to make new friends and lose touch with old ones as they forge their own identities. These changes typically do not happen overnight, but rather, gradually over the years. However, if your teen is suddenly running with a completely different crowd and has zero interest in spending time with friends from their younger years, it could be that those old friends don't approve of the way your teen has changed, possibly due to drugs or alcohol.
If your teen once had friends over frequently and now never brings anyone around, this is another possible warning sign that these new friends may not have the best influence on your teen. Your child likely knows that you wouldn't approve of their new crew and so wants to keep you separated from their friends.
When under the influence, many people find that they have less control over their bodies than they usually do, resulting in stumbling, walking into things, and even falling. If your teen is coming home with unexplained injuries, it could be that they injured themselves while taking drugs or alcohol. Of course, it is also possible that your child is being bullied at school or purposefully harming themselves, so don't ignore these possibilities as well.
When asking your teen about their injuries, make sure they know that you are coming from a point of compassion, not accusation. Let them know that you just want to make sure they aren't in any danger at school, at a friend's home or in other locations they frequent.
Unless your teen has a steady job, which is unlikely if they are using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, he or she will need an ongoing supply of money to pay for their habit. Although it is common for teens to ask you for money fairly frequently, take note if you find money missing from your wallet. While it is not uncommon for teens to sneak a bit of money here and there, you need to be aware of how much and how often. Frequent theft could signal that your teen needs more and more money to fund a burgeoning addiction.
Drastic Weight Changes
If your teen is using drugs or alcohol, they may skip meals in favor of doing drugs, and many drugs, especially those in the "upper" category, diminish appetite. This could cause your teen to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time. At the other end of the spectrum, marijuana often gives people "the munchies," making them more likely to gorge on snacks, most commonly the unhealthy ones, possibly causing your teen to gain weight.
Weight changes in the teenage years are common, as your teen is growing into their adult body, so weight change alone is not necessarily an indicator of drug use. However, if the weight change was drastic and sudden, drugs could be playing a role. Of course, check with your teen's doctor first to ensure that the weight change isn't the result of a medical condition.
Start by Talking to Them
If you have suspicions that your teen is using drugs or alcohol, your first recourse should be to sit down and have an open, honest conversation with your teen. Do your best to remain calm and not to yell, as you want your teen to feel as comfortable as possible opening up to you. If you have used drugs or alcohol in the past, you may wish to share a bit of your own experience to show your teen that you are not as out-of-touch as they might think. Use your experiences to educate them about the dangers of using drugs and offer to help them get clean if they wish to.
Don't worry if your teen doesn't open up to you right away. Your teen may feel more comfortable discussing sensitive topics with a school counselor or therapist than with a parent, so don't be shy about utilizing these options. Also, don't be surprised if your teen denies using drugs until faced with incontrovertible evidence that they are, in fact, using. It may take several attempts before you get positive results, if at all.
Get Your Teen the Help They Deserve
If you have tried to help your teen quit using drugs to no avail, it may be time to take more drastic measures. Here at Pemarro Recovery Center, we offer inpatient rehabilitation services for individuals of all ages, including teens. Our compassionate rehab programs focus not just on helping your teen get clean, but also on addressing any problems in their life that may have led them to drugs or alcohol in the first place.
From the moment your teen arrives at our facility, they'll be treated in a manner that is caring, compassionate and understanding. We recognize that no two cases of addiction or drug use are alike, just as no two users are alike. Although we do conduct group therapy sessions, we also work with each patient on an individualized basis as well, helping to get to the root of their unique needs.
We welcome you to get in touch with us to learn more about our rehabilitation programs. Our associates will take the time to answer your questions about our facility and treatment philosophy, and we'll take you on a tour of our facility. We want you to have all the information you need to make an informed decision about choosing us for your teen's care. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help your teen beat addiction and live a drug-free life.