Recognizing Teen Drug Use

April 9, 2020 , Agape Treatment Center

teen drug useWhile every parent desires to protect their children from the effects of drug abuse, the reality is that teenagers commonly experiment with drugs. In fact, the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports that 50% of teenagers have used drugs at least once in their lifetime. Additionally, research has found that the perception of drugs’ potential danger has declined in the past few years. This means that a larger percentage of teens and young adults are not aware of the potential risks and consequences of experimenting with or abusing substances.

Due to the prevalence of teen drug use, it is extremely important for parents and caretakers to be able to recognize the signs of teenage substance abuse. For the sake of understanding, it is just as vital for parents to recognize the causes of teen drug use. If you are worried that your child is experimenting with or abusing drugs, learning about the causes, signs, and symptoms of teen drug use could be the first step in their recovery. 

Causes of Teen Drug Use 

As a parent, it may be difficult to understand why your teen would want to use drugs. From an adult’s perspective, it could be obvious that experimenting with substances could cause health, social, and emotional issues. However, it is common for teenagers to view using drugs as a way to experiment and try new things – despite the health risks associated. While there are many reasons a teen may use drugs, the following are the most common causes of teen drug use.

Peer Pressure

While many teens may deny that they are affected by peer pressure, this is one of the leading causes of teen drug use. In fact, teenagers and young adults are still in an extremely impressionable stage in their lives. That being said, if a teen is surrounded by friends who are experimenting with drugs it is likely for them to become curious as well. This form of “peer pressure” is less obvious than the stereotypical version. On the other hand, many teens experience heavy pressure from their peers to try drugs. Oftentimes, kids will succumb to peer pressure in order to appear “cool” to their friends. 

Stress 

While it is sometimes hard to believe that teenagers experience high levels of stress, this is another leading cause of teen drug use. With the combination of academic pressures and the feeling of needing to “fit in” with their peers – many teens experience high levels of stress. When someone, especially a teenager, is ill-equipped to handle stress, they often attempt to self-medicate their anxieties. That being said, many teenagers will try drugs like marijuana, opiates, or benzodiazepines due to the calming effects that they are known for. 

Boredom

While some teens may abuse drugs due to stress, others may begin to experiment with drugs solely because of boredom. Teenagers are known for their need for constant adventure and excitement. As a result, many teenagers will use drugs as a form of “entertainment”. Additionally, substances allow teens to manufacture feelings of happiness, adventure, and excitement. However, this may perpetuate the development of a harmful dependence or addiction to the substance of their choice. 

Signs of Teen Drug Abuse 

Since teens typically go to extreme lengths to hide their drug use, noticing the signs is sometimes difficult. Additionally, teenagers are naturally inconsistent in regards to their behavior. However, there are a few symptoms of teen drug abuse that are typically easily spotted by parents or caretakers. 

The common symptoms of teen drug abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Sudden changes in academic performance 
  • Frequent bloodshot eyes
  • Laughing for no apparent reason 
  • Dilated pupils 
  • Sudden decline in personal hygiene 
  • A sudden change in friend groups and interests 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities 
  • Secretive behavior 
  • Sudden changes in sleeping habits 
  • Increase or decrease in appetite

When someone begins using drugs, their behavior will begin to change drastically. For example, teenagers who are abusing drugs will often isolate themselves from their families as much as possible. This means eating dinner in their rooms, going to bed early, or even ignoring curfews in order to stay out later. In addition, a lack of motivation is prevalent among teens who abuse drugs. If your teen is suddenly not completing tasks, schoolwork, or displaying an overall apathetic outlook – they may be abusing substances. 

The Effects of Teen Drug Abuse 

Anyone who frequently abuses drugs will experience direct emotional, social, and physical effects. While this may seem obvious, many teenagers are not knowledgable in regards to the risks of recreational drug use. Due to this, it is very important to understand the risks of drug abuse for teenagers. 

Common effects of teenage drug abuse:

  • Academic decline 
  • Development or worsening of mental illness 
  • Gastrointestinal problems 
  • Respiratory system issues
  • Cardiovascular issues 
  • Liver or kidney damage 
  • Impaired immune system function
  • Brain damage
  • Physical dependence to the substance 
  • Addiction
  • Overdose

If you suspect that your teenager is abusing drugs, it may be time to have a conversation. Talking to your child about their drug use can be difficult, but it could save their life. In fact, early intervention is one of the best ways to prevent your child from experiencing severe and lasting effects of their drug use.

Finding Help for Teen Drug Abuse 

If your child is abusing drugs and in need of professional help, there are many resources out there. Oftentimes, if your child is not addicted or dependant upon substances, finding them a certified therapist may be a good first step. However, if your child has been frequently abusing drugs over a period of time, they may need to attend a professional drug detox center. 

Drug detox centers are intended to help patients safely come off of whichever substance they have become addicted to. Without attending a detox, individuals will often face uncomfortable or even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, many people who attend a drug detox opt to undergo inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment. Many people in the addiction recovery community believe that attending additional levels of treatment allow patients to build a stronger foundation of sobriety.