It’s not easy for a parent to admit that their teen is abusing substances. If you’re like other parents, you are baffled and frustrated, wondering how this could be happening. Early intervention is crucial — learn the indications of drug and alcohol abuse in teens, so you have a chance to stop this behavior before it worsens.
Signs of Substance Abuse in Teens
If you see any of the following signs in your child, they may be abusing drugs or alcohol.
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Personality changes
- Change in grooming habits, or sudden sloppy appearance
- Lack of motivation
- Periods of extreme energy and lethargy
- Preoccupation with drug-related clothing, posters or music
- Change in friends or hobbies
- Academic problems
- Legal trouble
Also, even if you do not see signs of substance abuse, keep an extra close eye on your teen if your family has a genetic history of addiction. Genetic predisposition can be a significant indicator of future addiction.
Some of these symptoms (such as tiredness and changes in hobbies) are normal parts of adolescence. However, they all merit taking a closer look at your child’s life, especially if you notice more than one of these signs.
What to Do if Your Teen Is Using Substances
Too many parents make the mistake of believing that substance use is “normal teen stuff.” There is no such thing as getting involved too early. At the very first signs of substance abuse, you need to take action by talking to a professional.
The earlier you can intervene, the better. In 2016, neurologist Dr. Frances Jensen told NPR that teenagers slip into addiction much more quickly than adults, which explains why so many parents are blindsided by their teen’s addiction. You may be tempted to just “wait it out” if the signs have only been present for a short time.
Don’t give in to this thinking — some drugs can cause symptoms of addiction to crop up within a single day. Oftentimes, families do not seek help until the problem has gotten completely out of control, and seems insurmountable. Act now.
When Does My Teen Need Help?
A professional such as your family doctor can determine whether teen drug rehab can help. Make an appointment with your doctor or your child’s school guidance counselor.
In the words of one devastated father who lost his 16-year-old son to inhalant abuse, “When you see that there is regular abuse of any sort — which means drunkenness or altered states — that’s when you talk to a professional. We delayed too long for that. You want to see a doctor about this now.”
We are a free web resource for parents of teens who are struggling with substance abuse. Speak confidentially to one of our addiction specialists at 855-625-8581. We are here to listen to you, and to offer guidance about any next steps you can take to restore your child to wellness. There are no costs or obligations — just help.
- Drugfree.org. Intervention eBook. https://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2014-intervention_guide.pdf
- NPR.org. Why Teens Are Impulsive, Addiction-Prone And Should Protect Their Brains. https://www.npr.org/2016/04/15/474348291/why-teens-are-impulsive-addiction-prone-and-should-protect-their-brains
- NCADD.org. For Parents: What to Look For. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/signs-and-symptoms/what-to-look-for-signs-and-symptoms