We often say that young children are sponges, but brain development during the teenage years is arguably more dynamic and profound. The teenage developmental period often heralds the onset of mental illnesses, and even the normal teenage brain responds differently to stress. Young adults are vulnerable, and this critical period can sometimes lead to teenage drug use and addiction.
Luckily, teens are also resilient. When the adults in their lives can recognize the signs of drug addiction early, they can help young people reclaim their lives.
Do you know what symptoms to look for in the teenagers you love? We’ve created this guide to help parents, teachers, and caregivers learn the signs of drug abuse in teenagers and young adults.
Read on to learn six critical signs of teenage drug addiction to better support the young people in your life.
Table of Contents
1. Mood and Personality Changes
Drug abuse symptoms can be hard to spot in teens because they undergo many other dynamic changes during this period. They are beginning to develop autonomy, which can lead to changes in personality. Certain specific changes might be signs of drug use or abuse.
Be aware of the following:
- Depressed mood
- Low motivation
- Secretive behavior
- Lack of focus in school or at work
- Low inhibitions
- Uncharacteristic elation
While these may be signs of drug use, they can also be symptoms of other mental health conditions. Regardless, significant behavioral changes indicate that your teen needs your help and support.
2. Behavior Changes
All human beings fall into patterns. Sudden shifts or changes in those patterns indicate that there has been a change in equilibrium. Drug use is a frequent cause of behavior changes as teens shift their priorities toward drug acquisition and abuse.
Examples of behavior changes include:
- Missing school
- Locking bedroom doors
- Disappearing for long periods with no explanation
- Making excuses
- New struggles with money
- Sudden fixation on gum or mints
- Uncharacteristic clumsiness
Teens will go out of their way to hide their drug use and associated behavior. While teenagers deserve privacy as they come into their own, take note if they seem particularly defensive or secretive.
3. Hygiene Changes
One of the most apparent drug abuse signs is a sudden change in hygiene and physical appearance. Teenagers are constantly curating their appearance in an attempt to impact the way peers perceive them. If a teenager begins showing a lack of interest in their hygiene, it can be a sign of underlying drug use.
Specific changes to look for include:
- The smell of smoke
- Atypically messy appearance
- Flushed cheeks or skin
- New burns on lips or fingers
- Soot on lips or fingers
- Wearing long sleeves in warm weather
Different drugs can cause other physical signs and symptoms. Teens experimenting with injecting drugs such as heroin may have track marks, for example. Look into the dangers of delta-9 and other drugs popular among teenagers for more specific signs.
4. Changes in Physical Health
Drugs often have a negative impact on the health of the user. As teenagers grow and change rapidly, these ill effects can be more detrimental. Pay attention to frequent medical illness, excessive lethargy, or significant weight loss or gain.
Other symptoms to look for can include the following:
- Slurred speech
- Frequent runny nose
- Sores on the lips and mouth
- Inappropriate perspiration
Be aware of the signs of a drug overdose. If you suspect your teenager is overdosing, contact emergency medical services immediately.
5. Social Changes
When drugs become a teenager’s priority, it often impacts how they spend to use their free time, including who they spend it with. The first relationships to change are those with parents, siblings, and caregivers. They may begin to skip family events to spend more time with friends.
Have their friends changed recently? Maybe it has been a while since you’ve seen anyone from their old friend group. Perhaps they used to have friends over frequently and now choose to socialize elsewhere.
Teens using drugs often home leave early and stay out late to purchase and use substances. By coming home later, they hope their drug use’s effects won’t be noticeable.
Keep track of how often teens skip curfew and pay careful attention to school truancy and absenteeism.
6. Paraphernalia or Other Physical Clues
Teens can be sneaky and secretive; sometimes, the clearest sign of drug abuse is physical paraphernalia or even the drugs themselves. Searching their room or personal space may be appropriate if you have a genuine reason to suspect that your teenager is using and abusing drugs. If possible, explain your concerns rather than violating their confidence entirely.
During your search, look out for the following:
- Vape pens
- Empty dime bags
- Rolling papers
- Lighters or matches
- Fake containers
- Alcohol bottles or containers
- Water bottles filled with unidentifiable substances
Checking your child’s cellphone or social media accounts can also help answer questions about their behavior. Do you recognize their contacts? Do recent text messages seem to indicate secretive activity?
Invading a teenager’s privacy may seem nerve-wracking, but it can ultimately save their life.
Know the Signs of Drug Addiction in Teens
Being a teenager is an unprecedented experience in which every emotion is sharp and new. Many young people turn to substances to help them cope with the intensity of this period of development. When you know the signs of drug addiction in teens, you could save a life and help a young person recognize that they have their whole life ahead of them.
The first step toward wellness is knowledge. Check out the rest of the blog for most posts that can help you take control of your health and keep your loved ones safe.