Red flags that could indicate your teen has a drug problem

Read on for the early warning signs that could indicate your teenager is using drugs or abusing alcohol - and what to do.

Every parent worries about their teen getting involved in activities that are detrimental to their health and wellbeing. This is especially true when it comes to peer pressure, drugs, and alcohol.

It’s frightening to imagine that your child, already growing up so quickly, might be using drugs or drinking. However, drug abuse in teenagers is a very real problem. While many children will try to conceal their use of illegal substances, there are warning signals to be aware of in order to identify the problem early and stop it before it gets out of hand.

Below are the most common signs your teenager may be using drugs. It’s important to note, however, that not all these things necessarily signify drug use. They could also indicators other issues such as depression, anxiety, or stress. When in doubt, it’s best to reach out to a professional for guidance.

A teenager’s brain is much more susceptible to addiction because it is still developing. The earlier you seek help for a teen’s alcohol or drug problem, the better. A qualified family therapist can evaluate and assess your child, then provide appropriate treatment.

Missing school or always arriving late

If your child frequently misses school or is often late to class or late for pickup, this could be a sign of drug use. If his or her school contacts you concerning truancy or tardiness, you will need to take action on this immediately.

A drop in grades

Have your teen’s grades suddenly dropped without any reason? If so, it could indicate an underlying issue. Students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school.

Changes in your teen’s behaviour

Behavioural issues in and outside school may also signal drug problems exist. Behaviour issues can manifest themselves in many different forms, so watch for changes in your teen’s personality.

A few behaviour changes may include:

  • Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities: This often happens over a short period of time and usually indicates something is wrong.
  • A change in personality: Some children who were once outgoing become withdrawn or children who were typically relaxed are now often uptight. Acting despondent, aggressive, or angry are also possible signs.
  • Mood changes: These changes can take place from one moment to the next and may include a wide range of emotions. Excessive suspicion and paranoia are among them.
  • Change in peer group: Dropping old friends in favour of new ones could signal that your teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Changes in the home

Some things stand out as a blatant sign that something’s wrong, such as finding a hidden stash of drugs or alcohol. But sometimes, the signs are more subtle. Keep an eye out for unusual changes to your home environment, such as:

  • Containers or wrappers you don’t recognise
  • Drug paraphernalia, like smoking devices, eye drops, butane lighters, and syringes
  • Missing prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or alcohol

Appearing “spaced out”

Some teens “space out” and stare into space from time to time. While staring spells can be perfectly normal, they can also be one of the more recognisable signs of drug and alcohol abuse and should definitely never be ignored.

Forgetfulness or temporary memory loss

If your child shows signs of forgetting events and information more frequently than before in a manner that is absent-minded, this may signify a drug problem exists.

Increased or sudden secretiveness

This is one of the main signs of drug use because teens who are using definitely have something to hide.

Where to get help

If your teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will likely need assistance detoxing from the substance. A qualified family therapist can evaluate and assess your child, then provide appropriate treatment.

If you are searching for an addiction treatment provider specialising in care for teens, start with your medical aid. They can provide you with a list of in-network treatment providers.

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