Do you have a sneaking suspicion that something just isn’t right with your teen? Call it a parent’s intuition, or maybe just a good observational skill set. Maybe you’ve had to refill your prescription ahead of time. Maybe you can’t find the bottle of painkillers leftover from your son’s wisdom tooth removal. If you think you might be facing teen drug addiction in your home, here are five signs to look for.
1. Mood Swings
Mood swings come with the territory when you have teenagers. One day they are on top of the world, and the next day they feel the world is crashing down around them.
But there is a difference between normal teen highs and angst, and the mood swings of an addict. Opioids, such as painkillers like Oxycontin, can cause a user to feel euphoric while “high.” But when the drug wears off, withdrawal symptoms can include depression and anxiety.
- Depression: During a low period, an addict may feel guilt or question their behavior. Combined with possible withdrawal symptoms, they may show signs of depression until their next dose of drugs.
- Euphoria: An addict who is under the influence may be inappropriately giddy or elated in a socially unacceptable situation.
- Anxiety: Certain drugs, such as prescription stimulants, can cause anxiety and nervous behavior. Other drugs, such as painkillers, can lead to anxious behavior after the drug has worn off.
If your teen is constantly displaying extreme highs (euphoria), followed by periods of depression and anxiety, this may be a sign of addiction.
2. Strange Sleeping Patterns
Teens are known to be champion eaters, and world-class sleepers. You’ve already gotten half of the things on your to-do list finished by the time your teen rolls out of bed on a Saturday morning. But when your teen’s sleeping habits become abnormally strange, or change suddenly, it may be a red flag.
- Sleeplessness: Stimulants, such as ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall, can keep teens wide awake for long periods of time, and an opioid addict may experience sleeplessness as a withdrawal symptom.
- Over-sleeping: Once an addict finally gets to sleep, they may sleep so hard that they are difficult to wake up. Opioid use can lead to heavy sleeping, and also sleeping at inappropriate times.
If your teen is displaying strange sleep behavior like being up all night, then sleeping so hard you can’t wake him, it may be more than just a late night video game or study session that is to blame. It could very well be a sign of teen addiction.
When drug use becomes addiction, the addict may start to disappear from responsibilities and family. They may call in sick to school or their job. They will have excuses why they can’t attend a family function like a graduation or birthday party. Household responsibilities may be dodged. There may be hours or even days where you can’t reach your teen and they aren’t answering your calls. An addict may be slowly disappearing right before your eyes.
Unfortunately, your teen may not be the only thing missing in action. Families living with an addict may also start missing valuable items, which are often sold or pawned for cash to help support their addiction.
4. Changes in Appearance
Drug addiction can change the way your teen looks.
- Stimulants can lead to rapid or extreme weight loss.
- Staying awake for days at a time can make their eyes look red and watery.
- Your teen’s pupils might be abnormally constricted or dilated.
- Their face may appear puffy.
- Their skin could be paler than normal.
Prescription drug addiction can also lead to a disregard for hygiene or overall appearance. A teen who previously spent a good deal of time focusing on their outfits, hair, or makeup may suddenly stop caring about the way they look.
5. New Friends
An addict is more likely to spend time with other addicts. If your teen has had the same group of friends for years, and suddenly stops spending time with them, there may be a reason. If there is suddenly a new social circle and new group of friends, with little or no interaction with the old group, drugs could be behind it. If your teen’s new group of friends is also displaying signs of drug use, this could be a big red flag signaling teen addiction.
Coming to terms with the possibility that your teen might have an addiction is never an easy thing. But parental denial won’t help your teen get the treatment they need, either.
If you suspect your teen is addicted, don’t be an accidental dealer. Make sure any prescription pills in your own home are locked up, counted, and disposed of when no longer needed. Don’t delay in trying to get your teen the medical and behavioral help they need; the longer you wait, the more harm the addiction will cause.