If your child is taking drugs, there will usually be marked changes in their behavior, such as becoming sullen, quiet, or withdrawn. 

However, these changes are often ones that could quite easily be dismissed as ‘normal’ teenage mood swings. This, combined with the fact that most people really don’t want to admit that their child might be taking drugs, often means that drug use goes unaddressed for long periods of time.

While drug use during their teenage years doesn’t necessarily translate to addiction in adulthood, it’s still very important to address drug use as soon as possible because of the impact it can have both emotionally and physically on the developing brain.

Signs of drug use in teenagers

Some of the signs of drug use are the same as those associated with depression or with the stereotypical vision we have of teenagers. Your child might become withdrawn and isolate themselves in their room or become depressed and fatigued. You might notice them become more hostile towards you or lying about where they are going.

There are also some signs you can look out for which are more specific to drug use, such as:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Frequent sore throats
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Strange odors on the breath (this can indicate alcohol, marijuana, or inhalants)
  • Widely dilated pupils even in bright light
  • Pinpoint pupils even in dim light

If you are noticing these signs frequently, then there is a risk that your child may be taking drugs. This risk is increased if additional risk factors apply to your child.

Risk factors for drug use and addiction

There are a lot of different reasons that people start to use drugs. If a child has an underlying mental health issue, they are at an increased risk of starting to use drugs, which is why facilities like ignite teen treatment focus on treating both the drug addiction and the underlying emotional issue.

Some of the underlying problems that can contribute to drug addiction are:

  • History of an anxiety disorder
  • History of depression or bipolar disorder
  • Abnormal socialization between the ages of 7 and 9. This might take the form of inadequate parental supervision or from one or both parents using drugs, for example.
  • Peer pressure
  • Conflict within the family
  • Lack of communication between parents and children
  • Excessive discipline
  • ADHD diagnosis

What do you do?

If you think that your child is using drugs, it is imperative that you address the issue as soon as possible. The longer the problem is left unchecked, the greater the risk your child has of developing emotional or health issues as a result, and the more difficult any addictions will be to treat.

In the first instance, you should talk to your child calmly and rationally about your concerns. There is a strong likelihood that they will lie to you, so you should be prepared to have the conversation multiple times, making clear that you love them and why you are worried.

It’s also a good idea to enlist the help of your physician or a drug rehabilitation facility, for advice and support.

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