Substance abuse is a problem that impacts the lives of teenagers and their families around the country. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 22.7 percent of high school seniors report the use of marijuana. Furthermore, about 15 percent of high school seniors report the use of prescription medications for non-medical uses and almost 8 percent of seniors report the use of synthetic drugs.
Although younger students have slightly lower rates of substance abuse, there are risks among younger teenagers are well. When an addiction has developed, seeking treatment that is specifically designed for teenagers can help.
Changes to Appetite or Sleeping Patterns
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. explains that certain physical signs of substance abuse are visible in teenagers. According to Psych Central, parents may notice that a teenager is not eating as much as he or she did previously. In other cases, appetite may increase suddenly and without any obvious explanation.
Along with changes to a teenager’s appetite that seem unusual, parents should pay particular attention to sleeping patterns. Although it is not uncommon for a teenager to sleep more on the weekends, it is uncommon if a teenager seems to always be awake at night or is suddenly sleeping an excessive amount that is abnormal for the individual.
Ultimately, parents should pay attention to changes in a teenager’s normal patterns of behavior. Certain changes to appetite and sleep can occur with several different substances and it can be an early warning sign of a problem.
Mood swings and slight alterations in behavior may not seem odd at first, but extreme changes in mood can be a sign of serious problems. According to Dr. Phil, parents should never assume that extreme changes in mood are simply growing pains or a phase that teenagers are going through.
It is normal for a teenager to have some slight moodiness, but it is abnormal if a teenager is suddenly angry or sulking without any obvious cause. Furthermore, changes from happy to angry that occur rapidly and without clear reasons can be a sign of major hormonal or chemical imbalances in the body. It may be related to substance abuse.
Changes to Physical Appearance
One of the obvious signs of a problem is the sudden deterioration of physical appearance that can develop after a teenager begins abusing drugs. According to Psych Central, teenagers are usually very concerned about their appearance. They may attempt to improve their appearance or keep up with the fashion trends that are popular around their school.
When a teenager is not taking care of his or her appearance, it can be a sign of a problem. Poor hygiene often develops when an individual begins to abuse drugs. Furthermore, a teenager may show signs of disinterest in maintaining the same level of physical grooming as he or she did in the past.
Lack of Interest in Hobbies
A sudden lack of interest in hobbies or friendships that have developed over years can be a clear sign that something is changing. Substance abuse often takes away from other hobbies or interests because the individual begins focusing on the drug.
According to Psych Central, teenagers may become withdrawn from friends and family after abusing drugs. They may not show the same level of interest in sports, hobbies or activities that they previously enjoyed. Furthermore, they may become isolated from the family. Dr. Phil states that isolation is a clear warning sign of a problem, even if it is not substance abuse. Parents should not ignore sudden changes to a teenager’s behavior or interest in hobbies.
Physical Warning Signs
The physical signs of substance abuse can depend primarily on the substance, but there are a few key signs that can be a warning sign that the changes to behavior are related to substance abuse rather than a physical or mental health condition. Parents should always pay attention to the signs that a teenager is currently abusing a substance or has recently abused a substance because early treatment is a key part of preventing an addiction or improving the chances of recovering for a lifetime.
Obvious warning signs may include:
- A frequent and unexplained bloody nose
- Blood-shot eyes
- Pupils that are abnormal for the lighting conditions
- Odd smells
- Tremors, seizures or shakes in an individual who does not have epilepsy
- Increased number of physical injuries and lack of coordination
The physical warning signs of substance abuse can depend on the drug and the way that the individual is using the substance. In some cases, the signs will be subtle changes, such as odd smells or mild shaking. In other cases, the signs are more obvious and easy to recognize. Parents should pay particular attention to any changes to the eyes, especially if the pupils are too large or too small for the amount of light.
Teenagers can abuse drugs or alcohol at any age. Whenever a teenager is behaving oddly or there are signs your teen is using drugs, parents should always look further or consider a treatment program. Addiction can be very dangerous, but treatment options are available that can improve the chances of recovering. Even if a teenager has started abusing drugs, it is never too late to start a treatment program and encourage a healthier lifestyle.