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Warning Signs of Teenage Drug Abuse

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March 5, 2021

Drug abuse is an ongoing issue that affects many teenagers in the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that among high school students, nearly 70% have used alcohol, 50% have tried some kind of illegal drug, and almost 1/4 have abused prescription medications. The substances most likely to be abused by adolescents, according to NIDA and a 2019 survey, include marijuana, alcohol, prescription medications, inhalants, and synthetic marijuana.

Signs of Drug Abuse Parents Should Know

Signs of adolescent drug abuse can differ from those of adult drug abuse, and it is important to be aware of red flags that can appear. Sometimes, these signs can be overlooked as normal teenage behavior. But there may be cause for concern if there are multiple warning signs at once, if behavioral changes are quick to appear, or if these behaviors seem excessive. These warning signs include:

  • Acting aggressively, belligerently, or violently.
  • Becoming more secretive.
  • Cutting classes or missing days of school.drugs being exchanged between teenagers for abuse
  • Demonstrating signs of intoxication, such as constricted or dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes, slurring, lack of coordination, trouble focusing, or memory loss.
  • Different eating and sleeping habits.
  • Finding alcohol, drugs, and/or paraphernalia among their things.
  • Frequent runny nose if drugs are being snorted.
  • Getting in trouble at school.
  • Getting into arguments with family or friends.
  • Having legal problems.
  • Isolating.
  • Less attention to personal hygiene.
  • Lying when confronted about any unusual behaviors.
  • Mood swings.
  • Quitting hobbies or sports.
  • Spending time with a new group of friends.
  • Staying out late.
  • Stealing from family members or friends.
  • Talking a lot more or less than usual.
  • Track marks or always wearing long sleeves, even in hot weather, if drugs are being injected.
  • Weight loss.
  • Worsening grades at school.

Treatment Options for Adolescents

Adolescent substance use treatment is offered in a range of settings. A professional assessment will determine the setting that will best address your adolescent’s needs. These settings include:

  • Detox is the treatment phrase when withdrawal symptoms are eased. Many detox programs happen in a medical setting with around the clock supervision. This can prevent complications and make sure your child stays safe while detoxing.
  • Inpatient treatment, a highly structured setting that provides counseling, support, and around-the-clock care. This setting is best suited for adolescents who have severe substance use problems, additional physical or mental health conditions, or issues at home that can make it difficult to maintain sobriety.
  • Outpatient or intensive outpatient, which allows your child to receive care while living with you and attending school. This type of treatment can range from 1 hour a week to 3 hours multiple times weekly. Outpatient care is best suited for adolescents who have milder substance abuse problems, a supportive family and living situation, and few or no additional mental health issues.

Your child’s therapy will often involve learning coping and relapse prevention skills, building a sober support network, and engaging in constructive activities. Family members are encouraged to participate in treatment by learning how to support the person in recovery and communicate more effectively with each other. If there are any medical, psychiatric, or legal issues associated with the substance abuse, these will also be addressed in treatment.parents talking to teenager about drug abuse

Finding Help for Teenage Drug Abuse

American Addiction Centers has facilities that cater to the unique needs of adolescents and young adults. The Oxford, River Oaks, and Sunrise House facilities offer a full continuum of care in programs specifically designed for young adults. To learn more about how American Addiction Centers can help treat your adolescent for substance abuse, call our free, confidential helpline 24/7 at (866) 510-0809.

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