Teens who abuse drugs may have a greater risk of developing an addiction when they are adults. It’s important to know the difference between drug abuse and addiction. Many teens experiment with drugs, but aren’t addicted.
There are many signs that a teen is using drugs. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the pangs of adolescence and actual drug use, but parents can be proactive in talking to their teen to find out what’s going on.
Some common signs of teen drug abuse include:
- Bad grades
- Bloodshot eyes
- Laughing for no reason
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor hygiene
- Diminished personal appearance
- Avoiding eye contact
- Frequent hunger or “munchies”
- Smell of smoke on breath or clothes
- Secretive behavior
- Unusual tiredness
- Missing curfew
Parents can ask straightforward questions when said in the right tone. Simply asking, “Have you been using drugs or alcohol?” or “Has anyone offered you drugs recently?” can be enough to get the conversation started.
Responding to a teen’s admittance or denial of drug use in the right away is just as important as asking the right questions.
If a teen admits to taking drugs:
Parents shouldn’t overreact if their teen comes clean about using drugs. Overreacting or lashing out can prevent a teen from opening up about their experience. Getting teens to talk is important to determine if their drug use was a one-time thing or if it’s becoming a problem.
Parents should explain how they care about their child and the child’s future. Teens who feel supported and loved are also more likely to stop experimenting with drugs or seek help if they have an addiction.
If a teen denies drug use:
Naturally, there is a possibility that teens may lie about their drug use. Parents should reassure their child that they are concerned and want to help.
If a teen continues denying using drugs but the parent still suspects untruthfulness, a home drug test or professional help can uncover a teen drug problem. Therapists, pediatricians and addiction specialists can help diagnose a teen drug problem.
It’s up to parents to initiate a conversation with their children if they suspect drug use. One in five parents who suspect their teen is using drugs do not intervene to prevent further drug use.