Teens can be a complete mystery to many parents. While these developmental years can be a challenge, there are some behavioral and physical warning signs that the natural moodiness of your teen may be caused by something more serious like substance abuse.
There is immense pressure on teens to expand their knowledge and experience. From sexual activity to trying drugs, teens are constantly barraged with temptations. If your teen is displaying unusual or extreme behavior, you may need to pay closer attention to find answers.
Substance abuse is an issue that affects people of all ages but is particularly serious for teens that are in the developmental stage of their lives. While substance abuse recovery is always an option, parents need to take a more active role when it comes to discovering a problem in the early stages. Let’s take a closer look at some of the warning signs of substance abuse in your teen.
While your teen may often seem like a stranger to you, this is not that unusual. Teens go through a lot of physical and hormonal changes that can affect their behavior. You are looking for extreme changes that don’t seem quite right in your teen. Look for these more extreme shifts in your teen if you suspect they may have a substance abuse issue:
- Changes in natural temperament that seem permanent
- Changes in their traditional group of friends
- Secretiveness or obvious lying
- Extreme weight changes
- Extreme Moodiness and Anger
One of the first things teens often try as a stepping stone to more serious substances is smoking cigarettes. The good news is that it is tough to disguise this habit. As a parent, you may be able to easily smell the scent of tobacco on your teen’s clothes and body. If they suddenly start to chew gum daily or claim that a new friend is smoking around them to account for the smell, it’s a clue that they may be smoking. Smoking cigarettes is a serious enough habit that can quickly turn into an addiction that is hard to kick. Teens that smoke cigarettes are also more than four times as likely to try marijuana and other drugs.
Teens that are using drugs or alcohol often go through physical changes that should be obvious to their parents. These changes go beyond the natural body and growth stages of adolescence. Look for these changes in your teen that could indicate a substance abuse problem:
- Extreme weight loss or gain could be caused by substance abuse. Stimulants can result in rapid weight loss, while depressants or opiates could cause rapid weight gain.
- Personal hygiene is often ignored by teens who are struggling with substance abuse. If your teen has changed their personal care habits, it may be a sign of a problem. Your teen may look disheveled, change their showering habits, or seem unaware of their physical appearance.
- Chronic coughing could be an indication of smoking or inhalation of other substances.
- Fatigue could be a sign of substance abuse. While many parents view their teens as a bit lazy, you should be looking for extreme fatigue, sleeping long hours and a lack of energy or enthusiasm for normal activities.
If you are catching your teen in lies, you may want to look a bit deeper. Teens that are abusing substances are going to do everything that they can to cover up their activities. It’s important to pay close attention to their behavior when your teen has been caught being deceptive. The habit of lying can turn into more serious offenses. Your teen may try to steal money or belongings that can be traded for cash to fuel their habit.
Addiction can cause serious shifts in attitude in your teen. Most addicts become focused on getting their next fix and don’t care what may be standing between them and what they want. If your teen has been showing aggressive behavior towards family members and friends, it could indicate a problem. Yelling, extreme anger, and intimidation techniques are often used against siblings before they progress to the parents, so talk to your other children about what may have happened between them and your teen.
While raising a teen can be challenging, it is still the job of parents to observe and react when things just don’t seem right. If your teen is displaying any of these extreme behaviors, it could signify that they may have a substance abuse problem. Talk to your school or private counselor about the right steps to take to get help for your teen.
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