It can be very difficult to spot a drug problem in your teen, for many reasons. Teenagers more than any other age group are at a phase in their mental and social development where they are looking to form relationships outside of their family. For this reason, they may be spending more time away from home. They may be talking to you less about important things. They may be spending more time in their rooms. On top of that, due to hormonal changes, teenagers can be moody. It may seem hard to bring up concerns to your teenager for fear that they will get upset. It also may be hard to nail down exactly why their moods are changing. Is it a normal part of adolescence, or is it something more? While it can be hard to believe, or accept, there are some clear-cut signs your teenager may have a drug problem.
Behavioral Changes Due to Drug Use
During teenage years, every person is more likely to have behavioral shifts. Changes in hormones and cognitive abilities during these years are most often the cause of this, but in some cases, there may be more going on. It may feel hard to know what to expect when it comes to your teens behavioral enough already, but there are signs that indicate they are experiencing something outside of the norm. Some indicators can include:
- Extreme Mood Swings: Mood swings are a very common part of growing up, but if these mood swings become extreme, it could be caused by drug use. If you notice your teen going though periods where they are extremely happy, sad, or erratic then take note.
- Uncommon Behaviors: Changes in behavior can be normal, but some changes are not normal at all. For example, if you notice that your child is not sleeping, sleeping for excessive amounts of time, spending large amounts of money, getting in trouble with the law, etc then you have cause for concern.
- Violent Behavior: Sure, teenagers can be more prone to anger than adults, but when their anger turns into violence, it is a problem. Some drugs can have the side effective of causing rage, and for that reason, if you notice your child becoming violent, take action right away.
Emotional Changes Can Also Be A Sign Your Teenager is Using Drugs
Like behavioral changes, emotional changes are also common during adolescence. Teenagers are notoriously moody, and that is not in itself a reason to be concerned. However, you know your child better than anyone, and if you notice that they are experiencing more than your run of the mill teen angst, then that could be a sign of drug use. Some signs to watch for include:
- Depression: If your child becomes noticeably depressed, pay attention. While most drugs will cause your child to feel extremely happy temporarily, once the drugs wear off, they may feel very depressed as their brain chemistry rebounds from the effects of the drug. Additionally, certain drugs such as pain killers and alcohol are known as Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. Over time they can worsen pre-existing depression.
- Anxiety: While some anxiety is normal, if you notice that your teenager is exhibiting high levels of anxiety, it could indicate a drug problem. Benzodiazepines are medications used to treat anxiety which have a high rate of abuse. If your child has taken these and stopped, it can cause serious bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. Another reason anxiety can be a sign is because drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines are known as Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulants. A side affect of these drugs can be nervousness and anxiety.
- Mania: Mania is a condition in which the person experiences high energy, lack of impulse control, and paranoia, among other symptoms. Mania can be the result of a mental illness, but in some cases can also be the biproduct of drug abuse. Long-term abuse of stimulant drugs can cause the user to experience manic episodes or can worsen a pre-existing condition causing the onset of mania.
- Rage: Rage occurs when a person becomes extremely, and sometimes violently, angry. Rage is not typical anger but is anger which is powerful to the point that the person loses control. Often, those who experience rage also experience blackouts where they cannot remember what they did during the episode. Most drugs are capable of causing episodes of rage, due to the upset of chemicals in the brain. However, certain drugs- especially stimulants, steroids, and alcohol- are more likely to cause rage, especially among men.
Physical Changes as a Result of Drug Abuse
Like all of these signs, physical changes may be hard to spot because they are normal to experience during teenage years. However, there are certain physical changes that can be expected, and some that should normally not occur. For example, during puberty it is common for men to experience and increase in muscle mass, and women to experience an increase in fat distribution. In either scenario, it would could be considered worrisome if the individual were to begin losing extreme amount of weight. Some other physical symptoms which could indicate a drug problem include:
- Red, Glassy Eyes: Having red, glassy eyes is a common side effect associated with many types of drugs, including marijuana, opiates and cocaine. Blood shot eyes could be caused by being tired, or even dry eyes associated with looking at screens for too long. However, if you notice your child has red and glassy eyes often, or notice it in combination with other symptoms, it could be a problem.
- Weight Gain: While it may be more common to lose weight as the result of drug abuse, excess drinking can cause weight gain, especially around the midsection.
- Poor Hygiene: Drug abuse can cause fatigue, wreak havoc on one’s mental state, and cause a lack of motivation. These are all common reasons that a person may start to exhibit poor hygiene.
Other Notable Signs of Drug Abuse in Teens
There may be other signs that your teenager is experiencing a drug abuse problem, even if none of the above symptoms are present. For example, finding paraphernalia in their belongings is a pretty sure sign. This could include lighters, small plastic baggies, cigarette rolling papers, straws, foil, and much more. Teenagers are heavily influenced by those they spend time with. If you notice your child is spending a lot of time with other kids who use drugs, it could also mean that they are using. Sneaking out, getting in trouble at school, or losing interesting in activities that they once enjoyed could be a clue that they are getting involved in drugs as well.
The truth is, when people get involved in drugs, no matter their age, they are typically not forthcoming about it. The best thing you can do is pay attention, talk to them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and make sure that they know that they can always come to you for help if they need it.
If you child is abusing drugs, just know that there is help available to you and to them. Talk with a doctor, therapist, or substance abuse specialist who will be able to discuss your options with you and ensure your child gets the help they need.