Teen drug and alcohol use in America is a problem that continues to grow. In fact, according to a survey taken in 2014:
- 70% of high school teens admitted to using alcohol
- 35% admitted to using marijuana
- 8% admitted to using cocaine
In addition, the surveyed teens also mentioned using or trying other dangerous illegal drugs, including opiates, tranquilizers, sedatives, and even heroin. If you are parenting a troubled teen or just have concerns about teenage drug and alcohol use in general, the following information can help you recognize the signs of drug and alcohol abuse and find real solutions to address the problem before it is too late.
The importance of good communication between parent and child
While the teenage years can certainly be filled with behavioral issues that have nothing to do with illegal drug or alcohol use, parents should never ignore or discount worrisome changes in their child’s behavior without determining the actual cause. Frequent, meaningful communication with your child can be the best way of helping them work through normal teenage issues without drifting into drug or alcohol use. In addition, spending time with your child each day can help you detect any early signs of drug and alcohol use, should they occur.
Understanding the signs of teen drug and alcohol use
Teens who are beginning to experiment with drug and alcohol use are often capable of doing a good job of hiding this use from their parents, siblings, and other family members. Parents who note disturbing changes in their child’s behavior should be aware that it could indicate a developing drug or alcohol use problem. Some of these changes include:
- noticeable personal appearance and hygiene issues, including a sudden disinterest in appearance and cleanliness
- marks on arms, fingers, or other areas that could indicate burns or needle marks
- sudden health issues, including frequent headaches, nosebleeds, allergy-like symptoms, nausea, or sweating
- an insistence of keeping arms covered with long sleeves even in hot weather
- sudden weight loss or discoloration of the skin
- clothing that smells like smoke or chemicals
- sudden, frequent use of breath mints or gum
- nervousness, coordination issues, mood changes, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- periods of withdrawing from family activities or acting unusually tired or depressed
- sudden disregard for curfew and other house rules
- playing hooky from school, failing to do homework, and falling grade point averages
- changes in financial habits, such as frequently asking for money, overdrawing their checking account or stealing money or valuables from parents or siblings
Parents who spot this type of change should discuss the issue frankly with their child and look for honest answers. If drug or alcohol use is suspected, parents should address the issue immediately. Explore counseling programs and treatment centers in your area and take steps to get your child help as soon as possible.