10 Early Warning Signs Of Illicit Drug Use In Teenagers

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The teenage years are a time of great change. Many teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol for the first time during this stage in their lives, while at the same time they experience new emotions and feelings about their bodies. A growing teenager may exhibit strange behavior such as mood swings, outbursts, and other aberrant behavior. During this time of great chance, you may wonder what is going through your teenager’s mind, or whether they are possibly hiding something from you. It’s important that you are able to distinguish between the signs of a normal growing teenager and the signs of a drug or alcohol addiction. Here are some of the signs your teen is using illicit substances.

More Secretive Than Usual

Teens are naturally distrusting of their parents. They don’t want parents to be involved or know what they are doing because they long for independence, so it’s not uncommon for them to crave privacy. However, if you notice that they are repeatedly lying about their whereabouts, adamant that you not enter or clean their room, or attempt to sneak in and out of the house, there may be a problem.

Making Excuses and Lying

As stated above, teens generally don’t want their parents to know what they are up to, but if your teen is chronically lying about their whereabouts or who they are hanging out with, there’s a chance they may be purposely hiding something from you. If they’re chronically missing or making excuses to why they’re late, they could be hiding illicit drug use.

Significant Weight Loss or Gain

During teenage years, the body will undergo a lot of changes, but sudden weight loss or gain is never a natural part of life. If your teen experiences rapid weight loss or chronic loss of appetite, they could be amusing stimulants such as methamphetamines, cocaine, or prescription stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin which suppress the appetite. Alternatively, if they seem to be packing on the weight, they could have a problem with binge drinking, which leaves excess carbs in the body, or binge eating following alcohol or marijuana usage.

Loss of Interest in Old Hobbies

If your teen suddenly abandons a long time interest in something such as a hobby or sport with no apparent explanation, they could be developing a drug addiction. It’s not uncommon for teens to grow out of childhood interests, but if they begin to replace the time they used to spend on their hobbies and interests with time spent doing unknown activities, there may be cause for concern. Addiction tends to swallow up other activities in a person’s life, so watch out for this sign.

Poor Academic Performance

Not everyone is an A student. However, by the time they’ve reached their teenage years, it should be apparent what their academic skills are. If your teen experiences a sudden or significant drop in their grades and academic performance, this could be a serious sign that they may be experimenting with or have a full blown addiction to an illicit substance. Look out for signs such as GPA drops, calls from teachers, and serial tardiness.

Unexplained Spending or Extra Cash

Typically, drugs and alcohol do not come free. If your teenager has a job, they may have disposable income that can go towards paying for illicit substances. If your teenager has a job but seems to spend all their money on unknown activities, this could be a sign they are buying drugs. Alternatively, if your teenager seems to always have unexplained cash, they could be buying and selling drugs to other teenagers. This is usually a big red flag to look out for.

Interest in Drug Culture, Drinking Culture

What kind of music and television shows does your teenager consume? Odds are, if they are a fan of certain artists or characters that advocate a certain lifestyle, they could be experimenting with those substance they see depicted on television and in music. Check out their Netflix history or Spotify library to see what they are tuning in to.

Paranoia, Irritability, Anxiety

Some of the side effects of common drugs that teenagers try include anxiety, paranoia, and irritability. For example, marijuana is known for inducing paranoia and even paranoid delusions. Stimulants cause people to feel intense elation and pleasant feelings, but as a downside they always experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and irritability. If your teenager is drinking at night, they may wake up feeling less than rested, leading to extra irritation during the day.

Unexplained Injuries / Accidents

Unexplained bruises or damage to property such as a car could be a sign that your teenager is engaging in unsafe behavior while under the influence of a substance. Binge drinking increases the risk of someone hurting themselves, as does consuming hallucinogenic substances and operating motor vehicles. If your teen seems to appear with new injuries or cuts, or has a dubious explanation for why they wrecked their car, they could be hiding a substance dependency.

Abandoning Old Friends, Suspicious New Friends

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to shed their childhood friend groups, but if your teen is hanging out with shady characters or older teens, there may be a problem. If your teenager starts to hang out with other teens known for smoking, drinking, or doing other drugs, they may also be experimenting with illicit substances.

GUEST BLOGGER

Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a drug and alcohol recovery center. He has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for Boston Consulting Group before he realized where his true passion lied within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2018 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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5 Essential Tips To Protect Your Teenager From Drug Abuse

Concerned about approaching your teen about the consequences of illicit substances? Our guest blogger provides advice on how to approach this tricky topic in a loving and cautious manner. MWM. 

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Every parent worries about their child, especially when it comes to those tricky teenage years. Alcohol and drug abuse remain a serious issue in our society today in both adults and an alarming number of youths.

Statistics shockingly reveal that by the time kids reach the 8th grade 28% of them have consumed alcohol, 15% have smoked cigarettes, and 16.5% have used marijuana. Even more worrying, approximately 50% of high school seniors do not think it’s harmful to try crack or cocaine and 40% believe it’s not harmful to use heroin once or twice.

It is understandable that as a parent you are highly concerned and finding out if your child is using drugs is a delicate situation and a difficult one to confirm. If you suspect your teenager may be at risk of alcohol or drug abuse or you have already discovered your child is experimenting and is heading towards addiction, there are many ways you can help prevent that from spiraling out of control.

The aim of this article is to look at 5 ways in which you, as a parent can educate and support your teenager to avoid the serious health and mental risks associated with drug abuse and addiction.

1. Give them unconditional support

Every parent wants their child to be successful in life but sometimes it is difficult to understand the kinds of pressure they are exposed to these days. Supporting your teenager with positive reinforcement is a way to make them feel they are doing things right and may help them avoid suffering from stress too much.

Some of the main reasons teens turn to alcohol and/or drug abuse is because of stress, anxiety and a fear of failure. If you discover your teen is using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism for stress, instead of punishing them help them understand the dangers of substance abuse and help them get through the tough times with other means like exercise or encouraging healthy hobbies.

2. Help them understand negative consequences without demonizing their actions

The first response of many parents is to blame their child for being irresponsible or giving into peer pressure. The typical course of action is to punish them which can only fuel the cause of their want to abuse drugs and push them further towards addiction. Instead, try to understand what might be the reason behind their drug use and show them how the consequences of addiction can be harmful not only to themselves but to the family too.

Reaching a delicate balance between being strict and supportive can be tricky but it is best to deal with the situation with a cool head and an objective approach. Your child might think twice before doing it again if they know their family will be affected too.   

3. Learn real facts about drug types and how to identify drug abuse

Education is key and you should be the first person to research and find out what drugs are out there, what effects they have and what are the signs of a teen abusing drugs or alcohol. Your teenager probably has a lot of questions about drug use and addiction but will most likely feel you are not the person to ask.

If you educate yourself you will be able to handle the questions your child may have about drug use and therefore be a vital aid in preventing the situation getting out of control.

4. Addiction does not discriminate

How many parents have said, “That would never happen to my child” only to find out the dark secrets and experiences their children are living. Addiction can happen to any person regardless of age, race, social or economic status and upbringing. You can’t presume that addiction only happens in certain environments or is a result of bad parenting.

Each unique case is different and in many instances, drug abuse can begin from simple curiosity or a trigger such as bullying. Never presume your child is immune to the temptations of drug abuse rather stay aware of the signs and changes in behavior in your teen to determine if the cause may be addiction related.

 

5. Not all drug abuse comes from illicit substances

Most likely when you imagine drug abuse you immediately think of illegal and illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana or pills like MDMA but you might be surprised to know that 60% of teens abuse prescription drugs such as Vicodin a narcotic pain killer, Oxycontin another high dose painkiller and the ADHD drug Adderall which is a psychostimulant designed to enhance focus and relieve stress.

Dealing with your own child in this situation can be terrifying and daunting as a parent but the best way you can help prevent your child from becoming another victim of drug abuse is by communicating and showing support.

Your teenager may be going through a difficult time and needs all your support to help direct them to make the right choices. Listen to them when they need to be heard and look out for the tell-tale signs they might be in trouble.

We love to hear from our readers. Do you have any advice for parents out there who suspect their child might be involved in drug abuse or on the verge of addiction? Leave us your comments below.

 

About the Author: 

andyHi, I am Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Los Angeles, California. I have been clean for 9 years now! I spend my time helping others wit their recovery and growing my online business.

 

 

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Valuable Evals

Short of discovering physical evidence of drugs/paraphernalia and alcohol or finding your kid* under the influence, it’s often hard to know for certain if your kid is using – or to know the extent of the situation. Perhaps this is the first time. You may consider it’s just experimentation or partying. Or you may be concerned that it’s out-right addiction. It’s not always easy to tell.

Regardless of what you’re feeling, remember that you are feeling something that’s concerning. That’s ALWAYS something to pay attention to. Why? Because we know that substance use will damage their developing brains, which don’t reach full maturation until age 22 for young women and age 25 for young men.

The fact that you’ve discovered substance use is reason to investigate further.

Keep in mind that “investigate further” does not mean jumping to conclusions or overreacting. It starts with observations, gathering facts, noting concerns, paying attention and keeping track of things – at least for a while.

This is an ideal time to reach out to other adults in your kid’s life to ask if they’ve observed anything of concern.

Ask teachers, coaches, activity leaders. Talk to friends and neighbors. Express concern and then just listen. But, still listen your gut.

It’s also a good time to talk to your kid. No accusations. No judgements. Just open the conversation. Listen instead of lecture. Share your perspective on substance use. Don’t expect the truth and don’t be naïve.

Again, listen to your gut.

If there is even a tiny inkling that there is substance use, now is the time to consider a professional evaluation.

There’s no one right or wrong way to go about this. The important thing is to do something. An evaluation now provides a baseline for the future.

I’m no expert, but there are three primary categories of evaluation. All of these proved valuable for our family in the early days of our son’s substance use. At the end of the blog, and on our website, find resources for the following:

  • Drug Testing. From the drugstore variety to clinical lab tests, these may be helpful in finding out if your kid is using and what they may be using. A word to the wise, however, don’t rely on these. For example, marijuana (THC) stays in the system for up to 30 days; but other drugs including stimulants and opioids may only stay in the system for hours. Random drug testing may express the strength of your concerns and the extent to which you believe drug-free is best for your kid.
  • Chemical Health Assessment. This entails having your kid meet with a licensed professional to complete a comprehensive interview. These pros know that your kid may not be telling the complete truth and this factors into their assessment. The outcome is usually a set of recommendations – everything from “keep an eye on things” to a recommendation for outpatient or in-patient treatment. Usually, this conversation begins to set up a correlation between use and consequences as well as stage of readiness for change. There may be a fee for this assessment or it may be covered by insurance. Many counties offer free or sliding fee options.
  • Mental Health Evaluation (Psych Eval, for short). This entails having your kid meet with a mental health professional. It can rule out psychosis and get a sense of whether there is anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and other common co-occurring disorders that are prevalent among young adults and substance users. Again, there may be free assessments or insurance-covered options. For our family, this was one of the most telling assessments and ultimately it led to #SoberSon going into drug treatment.

Things to keep in mind:

  • An evaluation is just a starting point.
  • An evaluation is often a baseline and there may be need for future evaluations as your kid’s use continues.
  • An evaluation is not a diagnosis per se, rather offers a set of recommendations for developing a treatment plan which will likely include additional evaluations.
  • If your kid is under the age of 18, you can set up the appointment and insist that they participate.
  • Once your kid is 18 or older, your kid must agree to participate and the “results” are not available to you unless your kids authorizes a release of the findings. This can be a true challenge for concerned parents.

Resources for more information:

Our Young Addicts – links to resources:

https://ouryoungaddicts.com/links/

An overview of screening tools (SAMSHA)

http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/screening-tools

Another overview of tools (NIDA)

https://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed-medical-health-professionals/tool-resources-your-practice/screening-assessment-drug-testing-resources/chart-evidence-based-screening-tools-adults

Drug Testing Info: Burlington Labs

http://www.burlingtonlabs.com/

In Minnesota, two evaluations sources were particularly good for us. Google your community to find local sources.

Prairie Care

http://prairie-care.com/

Rule 25 – Chemical Assessment

http://www.resource-mn.org/chemical-mental-health/intake-assessment/rule-25/

*Our kids will always be kids no matter their age. However, in these blog posts when I use the word kid, I’m referring to young people ages 12 to 22.

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

When You’re Concerned About Your Kid’s Drug And Alcohol Use

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Guest blogger Rose Lockinger gets right to the heart of things with her take on what parents can do when they become concerned about a kid’s substance use. Thanks for sharing your insights. MWM

There are so many things we worry about as parents. We worry about them getting hurt or sick. We worry about accidents, we worry about their future, about their choices and we worry about them when they are sad and scared. As they get older we worry more, not less. They grow up a little and our hold on them has to loosen as they rely more on their friends for company and start to spread their wings.

One of the top concerns for parents of teens today is substance use and abuse. There are other things, of course. Bullying, gun violence, car accidents. But drugs and alcohol are a pervasive issue that teens face every single day, and often times, many of the other concerns parents have seems to go along with drug and alcohol use.

Do All Kids Experiment?

Not all do, but it’s common enough. While it doesn’t always result in negative consequences, it does warrant close scrutiny. Kids are impulsive and tend to think they are invincible. This creates problems when they get caught up in substance abuse. Most people who become addicted start using in their teens. The earlier drug or alcohol use starts, the greater the chances that the problem will turn into addiction.

What Are Signs That Your Child Has a Problem?

So as a parent what do you need to look for when you suspect that your child is using.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between just being a teenager and possible substance use.

Here’s a list of 6 main things to look for:

  • Changes in physical appearance
  • Extreme changes in emotions
  • Changes in academic performance and attendance
  • Always in search of money and not able to explain where it’s going
  • Significant changes in mood and personality
  • Missing prescription drugs and alcohol around the house
  • A lack of concern in their appearance and personal care.

These are some common ones to start with, although you may run into others that are specific to your individual situation.

What Do You When It’s A Problem?

If you suspect that your teen is struggling with substance abuse, it’s important to address the matter right away.

Things can escalate quickly, and it’s important that you let your teen know you are aware of the behavior.

Because the situation is scary, it’s easy to come from a place of fear and even anger. It’s important to encourage honest and open communication.

 

One of your first steps may be to bring your child to your family doctor so that he or she can be screened for substance abuse disorder and any other issues that may be present.

Substance abuse often goes hand in hand with things like depression, anxiety or trauma, so it’s important that they be screened for these things as well.

It’s Never Too Early For Professional Help

If you’ve addressed the issue through communication, education, a professional evaluation and firm boundaries and consequences and the problem is persisting, it’s time to take the next step. It may be that your teen needs to get help via an adolescent rehab.

 

Teen rehab programs can provide a safe place to recover from substance abuse disorder. Getting away from using friends is helpful, and while they are in rehab they will learn more about addiction and the dangers of substance abuse, they will receive individual counseling to help identify and deal with any underlying issues and they will learn new coping skills that will help them deal with difficult emotions without turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. This is important, because the adolescent years are full of challenges and powerful feelings. Learning how to deal with them in a healthy way can help them make better decisions when things come up.

 

It may feel like you are jumping the gun a bit to put your teen in rehab, but the earlier they get help, the better. Teens and drugs and alcohol are a dangerous mix. Substance use disorder progresses and will only get worse if left unchecked.

 

This is never an easy situation. You’ll feel like it is an uphill battle, and your teen will fight you at every turn. It’s important that the family present a united front and a consistent message for your child so they know that everyone is on the same page.

Remember, your teen is frightened. For the person with substance abuse disorder, the idea of losing their drugs or alcohol is scary. They feel like they have to have it in order to live on a daily basis. Anyone who stands in their way is a threat and possibly an enemy, no matter how much they love them.

 

While some level of confrontation is necessary in order to bring the problem into the open and start the process of getting help, over-the-top, harsh interventions are not only ineffective but can do more damage.

Supporting Your Teen Through Recovery

If you have decided to take the next step in helping your child recover, the most important thing you can do is to continue loving and supporting them. Teens are often consumed with feelings of guilt and shame as a result of using drugs and alcohol as well as their behaviors. It may not look like it from the outside, but on the inside they are hurting. Reassuring them that you aren’t judging them and that you are only getting them the help that they need is crucial.

About Our Guest Blogger:

unnamedRose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

Find our guest blogger, Rose Lockinger, on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.