There can be a number of signs of teenage drug abuse, many of which are easy for a parent to miss. Teenagers have many changes going on in their lives. Most of these are normal, but some can be indicators of behavioral problems like drug or alcohol abuse. It is very difficult to come up with an exhaustive list of what parents should be looking for. However, paying close attention to the changes in your teen’s life is the best method of getting a sense that your child may be developing a problem with drugs. Even if the signs do not end up as signs of drug abuse, they usually are signs of other problems and they should be investigated.
The first problem many parents notice is a decline in grades or a lack of interest in school or any previous activity. A loss of interest in something can sometimes mean a new interest has taken its place. Sometimes that new interest is good, but sometimes it is not. Straying from long established friendships and instead making new friends which a teen is reluctant to introduce to his or her parents can also be a danger sign.
Another sign of teenage drug abuse is when a teen begins to act in ways which are out of character. When a teen that was a “good” person begins to skip classes or break curfew, or a teen that was open and happy becomes secretive, then they may be hiding something of magnitude. Drug abuse can also manifest itself in physical and emotional changes. The teen may start sleeping for long hours, show signs of depression and anxiety, show fits of temper, or become very lethargic – all of these are signs of possible drug abuse. Drug prevention professionals often point to personality changes as a strong indicator of possible drug and alcohol use.
Paying close attention to prescription medications in the house is critical. If a parent notices some prescription drugs missing or if money starts disappearing around the house, this can be a strong indicator of teen drug abuse. Teens could be stealing from their parents to experiment, share with friends, or to support drug purchases.
Parents often have a sort of “sixth sense” when it comes to their children. Even if there are no overt signs of drug and alcohol use, often a parent’s hunch is enough to raise suspicion. It is up to the parent to heed their own feelings, investigate, and, if necessary, take action. Parents have every right to subject their teen to a drug test and/or take them to the doctor. If a parent is genuinely concerned about possible drug abuse by his or her teen, the worst thing that parent can do is prevaricate and do nothing. If their feelings prove to be true, delay can mean time for the drug abuse to escalate to a far worse level.