Article at a Glance
Sometimes it can be hard to tell what is normal teenage behavior and what is a sign of drug or alcohol abuse. During the teen years our bodies change so quickly. Our brains are still developing and surging hormones can cause dramatic mood swings.
Sometimes things like changes in behavior, sleeping a lot, and poor grooming might be due to normal growing pains. However you will want to keep your eyes open for larger patterns in behavior. Just a few of the below signs may only mean your child is a normal teen, but if you see a cluster of signs or other evidence, you will want to start asking questions.
Although any of these signs on their own might not be a sure sign of substance abuse, they are all behaviors that a parent should monitor closely.
If you think your child is using drugs, a good place to start is by asking others like your spouse or teachers if they have noticed similar behavior. You may also be able to find further evidence by searching your teen’s room. You don’t need to feel guilty about invading your child’s privacy. It is your job to keep your children safe.
You can also ask your teen directly. When talking to teens it is important to let them know that you are asking because you care and want to help, not because you want to get them in trouble. Teens might not always tell the truth about their substance abuse, but you might be able to get a feel of how much they know about the drug culture and how much they have been exposed to drug use.
Most importantly you need to get help for both you and your child. There is no such thing as causal or experimental drug use. If your teen is using drugs you need to act quickly. Ninety percent of addictions start during the teen years. Helping teens prevent or overcome addictions now is the best way to help them be free of addiction in their adult years. And not only is addiction a problem, but substance abuse can seriously impair your judgment and lead to other risky and dangerous behavior.
There are a number of different programs that offer resources, education, and help. Taking some time to study up will help you find the best way to approach the issue and how to help your child. There are a number of good online resources, including:
If you are feeling overwhelmed, calling your pediatrician is a good place to start. We are always here to help.