Symptoms of Teen Substance Abuse
While several kinds of substance abuse are on the decline among American teens, others are on the rise. Some may use substances and never become emotionally and/or physically chained to the behavior, but some will continue to use and abuse substances even when doing so begins tearing away relationships, opportunities, health and more. This is part of what defines addiction in fact; the use of a mood-changing behavior or substance regardless of negative consequences.
There is no way to know ahead of time whether or not your teen is a person who will become addicted. Family history and genetics can predispose a person, but social conditions, trauma and exposure to the abuse of substances are also factors which contribute to addiction. Thankfully, there are warning signs parents can look for to clue them in that their teen could be wrestling with substance abuse.
- A change in sleeping or appetite If you notice marked changes in your teen’s normal sleep pattern or appetite level it could be a sign of drug involvement. Marijuana use creates a surge in appetite and a desire for more sleep than usual. By contrast amphetamines make users less interested in eating or sleeping.
- A change in personal appearance Generally teens are characterized by over-attention to personal appearance. Teens who are becoming involved with substances, however, demonstrate less and less attention toward personal hygiene and appearance as they focus more and more on the substance.
- A change in personality While the teen years are full of attempts to discover self, don’t brush off abrupt and severe changes in academic performance, school or church attendance, or involvement in extra-curricular activities. Sudden irritability, increased secrecy, challenges toward authority or inexplicable shifts of attitude could all be symptoms of mood-altering substance use. Moodiness is typical during these years, but if the mood swings become extreme it could be more than normal adolescent development.
- A change in personal responsibility If your teen suddenly doesn’t keep up with homework or chores around the house take note. Shirking normal responsibilities could indicate other problems.
If you notice these signals, find an appropriate time to talk with your teen. Remember to approach your teen with questions rather than accusations. The goal is to have your teen tell you about him/her, not to erect a wall between you. Most often, if teens are using substances, they are doing so in order to cope with something troubling in their world. Even if their substance use seems slight, it isn’t too early to seek help from an addiction treatment center. Substance use tends to increase rather than go away on its own.