Teen drug use can increase your child’s risk of becoming dependent on drugs when they’re older. However, with experimentation being a huge factor in teen drug use, how do you teach your child right from wrong without them rebelling?
Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction: many teens will experiment (abuse drugs) but they won’t be addicted to the drugs.
Below, we take a look at some of the facts about drugs and teens before looking at the signs that may indicate your child is abusing drugs.
Facts about Teen Drug Abuse
The annual Monitoring the Future report looks at the attitudes and drug use of American teenagers in eight, tenth, and twelfth grade.
Last year, it found that teen drug use, smoking, and drinking remained on a stable level, but the number of teenagers using marijuana was on the increase. It rose by 1.3% to 24% from 2016.
During the year, almost 40% of teenagers in twelfth grade had used a type of illicit drug and over half had used alcohol. Of those in tenth grade, nearly 28% had used an illicit drug and 37.7% had used alcohol. In eighth grade, 12.9% had used an illicit drug and 18.2% had used alcohol.
Despite these figures being lower than the peak witnessed in 1997 (42.7% of teens in twelfth grade had used an illicit drug), they still make for worrying statistics.
And what’s perhaps even more worrying is the drop in teens who disapprove of using marijuana on a regular basis – falling from 68.5% in 2016 to 64.7% in 2017.
So how do we get our teens to say no to drugs?
The Signs of Teen Drug Use
There are a number of signals that may indicate a teen is using drugs. But sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish whether these are caused by the raging hormones many adolescents have or drug abuse.
Here are some of the things to watch out for:
1. Changes in Their Behavior
According to studies, one of the earliest warning signs that your teen may be using drugs is a change in behavior. Normally, this starts with them altering their group of friends. And even though this is common as teens grow up, if this coincides with some of the other signs listed below, it could be linked to drugs. Changes in social activities, skipping classes, or disappearing for long periods may also be a sign.
Look out for signs of withdrawal, angry outbursts, and a lack of respect for the rules you have in place (e.g. curfews). Uncharacteristic violent behavior can be caused by drug abuse, especially when the teen is confronted about the subject.
2. Changes in Their Physical Appearance
These symptoms will vary depending on the substance that’s being used, but be on the lookout for bloodshot eyes, lack of personal hygiene, tremors or shaking, unexplained injuries or bruises, flushed cheeks, runny nose or nosebleeds when they don’t have a cold, and unusual smells on their clothes or breath.
3. Changes Around Your Home
It goes without saying that if you find a stash of alcohol or drugs in your home this is a blatant sign that’s something’s not quite right. However, the signs can often be far more subtle, including the appearance of wrappers or papers that you don’t recall seeing before; missing alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, or prescription drugs; and drug paraphernalia, e.g. lighters, eye drops, or smoking devices.
Is Your Teen Using Drugs or Are They Just Going Through a Phase?
As we’ve already mentioned, aside from some of the more obvious signs of drug usage, some of the indicators may just be associated with growing up.
However, if you suspect your teen is involved in drug abuse, there are several things you can do to help:
Ask Them Outright
Sometimes, it’s better to just get things out in the open, rather than trying to “catch them out.” So don’t be afraid to ask the simple question – “Have you been using drugs?”
If they admit they have, thank them for being honest and don’t raise your voice. Explain that you love them and are concerned about them and their future. Teens who feel as though they are being supported are more likely to stop using drugs or seek help if they’ve developed an addiction.
Take a Drugs Test
If your child denies using drugs, it’s still important to reassure them and offer them help. When you suspect they’re lying, you may want to buy a drugs test or take your teen to the doctors for a screening. This can help uncover the problem so you can move forward in overcoming their drug abuse.
If your child is taking drugs and has become addicted to them, it’s time to seek professional help. Drug withdrawals can lead to horrendous side effects, which is why they need dealing with correctly.
Following a detox program, you and your child can start to rebuild their life, dealing with any of the stress or social circumstances that may have led to their teen drug use in the first place.