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Drugs and alcohol abuse in teenagers is more common than you may realize. Some rehabs in Massachusetts pay special attention to the needs of children and teens. Adolescents may try drugs for many reasons, and just like adults, they can become addicted. 

Drug Abuse or Normal Teen Behavior? 

At first, some parents struggle to tell whether their child is abusing drugs, especially if their child is a teenager. If you’ve ever looked up the signs of drug and alcohol addiction, you may have noticed symptoms like: 

  • mood swings 
  • impulsive behavior 
  • defensiveness 
  • poor decision making 
  • appetite changes 

In adults, these signs often point to drug addiction. In teens, however, these signs can come from hormonal changes or brain development. 

Some parents struggle to tell whether their child is abusing drugs. Here are some signs of drug and alcohol abuse in teenagers to keep an eye out for

How can you tell if your child’s moodiness is typical or if it results from drugs and alcohol? Pay attention to the number, frequency, and severity of these signs in your child. 

For example, if they have occasional mood swings and an increased appetite, they may simply be going through a growth spurt. On the other hand, noticing all these symptoms in your teen may point to a severe problem. 

Even if your child does not have a drug or alcohol problem, it’s still worth noting if they deal with severe symptoms. These signs can also point to other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD

Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Teenagers 

When teens abuse drugs and alcohol, you may notice some specific signals. Though the signals below don’t always mean that a teen is using drugs, they might indicate drug use if your teen shows many of them simultaneously. 

Changes at School 

Children and teens may deal with school changes for many reasons. They may be struggling with pressure, exhaustion, or too many after-school activities. However, some changes come from drug and alcohol use. 

For example, have your child’s grades dropped recently? Pay close attention if they have low grades in subjects they used to succeed in. Skipping classes, especially when they never skipped classes in the past, may also indicate drug use. 

Loss of Friendships 

Just like adults, teenage friends can grow apart. As teens discover new interests and activities, they may grow closer to some friends and stop seeing others. However, extreme and sudden changes might signify something is wrong. In some cases, it may indicate drug and alcohol abuse. 

When teenagers start using drugs and alcohol, they may let go of old friends who don’t use substances. They may also replace those friends with people they wouldn’t have been friends with in the past, primarily if they also use drugs. 

Lying or Keeping Secrets 

Teenagers often want and need more privacy as they age, so it’s normal for them to start keeping some things to themselves. But high levels of secrecy may signify drug and alcohol use. In teenagers, this secrecy might look like this: 

  • avoiding eye contact more often than usual 
  • lying about where they have been 
  • sneaking out of the house 
  • locking doors that they used to leave unlocked 
  • making excuses 

Changes in Appearance 

When a teen uses drugs or alcohol, their physical appearance may offer some clues. Some physical signs of drug abuse may include: 

  • rapid weight gain or weight loss 
  • scarring on the arms or legs 
  • wearing long sleeves in warm weather 
  • unkempt appearance 
  • bloodshot eyes 
  • constricted or dilated pupils 
  • runny nose or nosebleeds 

How to Talk to Your Child about Drug and Alcohol Use 

If your child has an addiction, they may not know how to get help, even if they want to stop using drugs and alcohol. When you start the conversation with your child, you may provide the first step they need to move forward. 

Before you start the conversation, look up treatment options in your area. Having available options can make the process less overwhelming for you and your teen. Approach the subject in a loving, non-judgmental way, and stay calm even if your child cannot do the same. 

Signs Of Drug And Alcohol Abuse In Teenagers

It’s not easy to talk to your teen about drugs and alcohol, especially if you think they may already have an addiction. However, this conversation is vital for your child’s health. Teens who abuse drugs may have a higher risk for drug addiction in adulthood. If your teen needs help, early intervention can make all the difference. 

Alicia Trautwein is an Autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mom of four. Alicia’s desire to advocate for Autism comes from her own autism diagnosis and that of her three children, niece, and brother. Her life’s mission is to educate on autism acceptance and change the world for future generations of autistic individuals.

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