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Early Warning Signs of Teen Substance Abuse: What to Look For

teen-signs-substance-abuseThe teen and young adult years are full of changes, so early warning signs of substance abuse can be difficult to detect. What can you chalk up to typical moody teenage behavior, and what could be a sign of a bigger problem? While there’s no single, foolproof way to identify whether your teen or young adult child is using drugs or alcohol, as a parent, you can probably tell when something isn’t right. Being aware of the warning signs of substance abuse can help you intervene early on.

Mood Changes

The brain and body go through big changes during the teen and young adult years, so changes in mood are common. However, if your child seems increasingly irrational, irritable, verbally abusive or even violent with you or other members of the family, it could be a sign of substance abuse. Contrarily, apathy and depression are also signs of substance abuse that shouldn’t be ignored. If your child or young adult seems to be withdrawing from you and their friends, and is spending more time alone, it could be a sign of drug or alcohol use.

Changes in Behavior

The more involved a parent is in their child’s daily life, the more easily they’re able to tell when something is amiss. Changes in behavior are some of the earliest, most obvious warning signs of substance abuse. A teen or young adult who has begun using substances may:

  • Become isolated or withdrawn from friends and family.
  • Seem disinterested in the things they usually enjoy doing.
  • Abruptly change their group of friends.
  • Be reluctant to introduce you to new friends.
  • Ask for money more frequently, or be unable to account for money that they’ve spent.
  • Steal money or items around the house.
  • Have memory problems.
  • Stay out late.

Changes in Academic Performance

The signs of substance abuse may be less obvious at home, but they can become very apparent in the school environment. Apathy, withdrawal, disinterest and aggression can all be signs of drug use, and it’s often reflected in their academic performance. Signs of substance abuse include:

  • Negative interactions with friends, classmates and teachers.
  • Failing quizzes and tests.
  • Bad grades.
  • Poor classroom behavior.

Physical Changes

Drug and alcohol use also take a physical toll on the body, and there are a number of health issues that can manifest, including:

  • Changes in appetite.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Frequent illness.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Poor coordination.

The teen and young adult years are hugely transitional times, so it’s easy to write off certain behaviors as “normal.” Not each of the signs listed above indicates substance use, but the more signs you notice in your teen or young adult child, the more likely it is that they could be using drugs or alcohol. Addressing these concerns early on can prevent your child’s substance use from turning into a bigger problem. Spearhead Lodge offers extended care substance abuse treatment for young adult men in Austin, TX. Our 90-day recovery program helps young men reclaim their potential and recreate their lives through clinical programming and comprehensive aftercare support. For more information about our services, contact a Spearhead Recovery Specialist.