Signs Your Teen Is Using Drugs and Alcohol
Recognizing that your teen is using drugs or alcohol is very difficult.
For some parents, it’s possible to never see the warning signs until the child is facing a drug overdose. As terrifying as that sounds, parents need to realize that drug and alcohol use is not uncommon among teenagers. Yet, understanding that your child may be using something is critical as it gives you the ability to spot problems early, allowing you to get your child help quickly.
Any Child Can Become a Victim of Drug and Alcohol Use
Some parents have an image in their mind of what a teen who uses drugs looks like. They may slur their words, skip school, and even drop out. Yet, sometimes, it is the “A” student who is thriving in every subject who is using stimulants to allow this. It could be the child who has battled a traumatic experience and gets through the day by having a few drinks after school. Or, it could be the athlete who knows how much you value that college scholarship that comes from top performance reaching for illicit drugs to help them. In short, it could be your child who has a substance abuse problem.
Here’s the good news: The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that teen drug use is falling collectively. In a study released in December of 2017, the agency reports that 9.4 percent of 10th grade students say they’ve used illicit drugs in the last year. And, 13.3 percent of 12th grades have used in the last year. While this is good news overall, it also means it is harder than ever to spot the problem. Without dozens of children in each class exposed to these risks, it can be hard for parents to realize their child’s struggles are in fact due to drug use.
How Can You Possibly Know?
If there isn’t a specific demographic that depicts drug use, how can you know your child is at risk? Sometimes, the best way to know this is simply to look for changes in your child. There are three common warning signs of early teen drug use: changes in behavior, changes in physical appearance, and changes in personality.
Their Behavior Is Different
Changes in behavior are very common. The child may act a bit different or seem withdrawn when they were once very social. In some cases, they stop doing the things they’ve always loved to do. You may find your child is pulling away and acting more isolated than ever. Or, the child that was once very shy is now very outgoing and has a new group of friends. A dramatic change can point to concerns.
Their Physical Appearance Changes
As drug and alcohol abuse progresses, it is also common to notice changes in the individual’s appearance. For example, they may have poor hygiene. They may have dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes. Some may experience a significant amount of weight loss or weight gain. Others will shake or have tremors. And, still, others will have unexplained injuries and bruises.
Their Personality Seems Different
Many times, the way the child interacts with others can be a significant clue as to what is happening. For example, they may be aggressive. Some may struggle to maintain any relationship. Others lack self-control. This can be hard to pinpoint simply because it may feel as though your child is just being a “typical” teenager. Yet, when you notice they are failing tests, skipping school, and demonstrating aggressive behavior, for example, this indicates a significant shift.
When Should You Get Your Child Help?
If you suspect drug or alcohol use, chances are good you’re right. For that reason, don’t wait. Conduct a drug test of your own, using one of the many self-kits available. Seek out counseling and therapy for your child. It’s impossible for those using drugs and alcohol to simply stop. In other cases, stopping can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Recognize what may be happening with your child. Talk to them about it and discuss what the consequences of such actions are. Don’t sweep it under the rug or ignore it. Doing so pushes your child further down the addiction path, which can make it very challenging to stop using their drug of choice. The sooner treatment is obtained, the more likely that treatment can be successful.
Enroll your child in a program designed to help them detox and receive either inpatient or outpatient care as needed. The results of early intervention can be lifesaving.
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