Most teenagers go through a rebellious phase, and that’s considered normal in most cases. However, it’s almost impossible not to worry if you’re a parent whose child is going through that phase. As kids start their journey to adulthood, their hormones can cause changes and mood swings. It can often be challenging to differentiate expected teen behavior from something that is genuinely problematic. For this reason, we will help you notice and recognize early warning signs of teen substance use.
Confronting your teenager about substance use
Unfortunately, directly accusing your child of having a substance use disorder will rarely be a good move. Generally, the teenage years are when kids try to distance themselves from the control of their parents. Therefore, you should have a very delicate approach. Ideally, you should have an open and trusting relationship with your child. An open discussion is much better than an angry accusation.
- If your child is not doing drugs or alcohol, they might get insulted and drift further into their teenage rebellion.
- On the other hand, if your child is abusing a dangerous substance, they will probably lie and try to hide it from you.
Neither of these scenarios will help your teenager resolve their issues. We suggest that you pay close attention to how your child is behaving and be on the lookout for early warning signs of teen substance use. When and if you suspect something, you should calmly talk to your child and assure them that you are their parent and that you will love them no matter what. Discuss their behavior and how you are just looking out for them. Remind them that they can come to you if they ever have a problem, regardless if it’s substance abuse or something else. That being said, let’s look at the behavior patterns you should be watching for.
Early signs of teen substance use
- Depression and withdrawal
Almost any form of substance abuse will be accompanied by depression. This can manifest itself in many different ways. Your child can lack motivation and suddenly become quiet and withdrawn. They may have trouble finding fun in activities they previously enjoyed. You can try to reconnect with them and have some fun together. Spending more time with your children is always a good idea. Especially if you suspect their change in behavior may be motivated by substance use. Time together will give you more opportunities to notice if things are off.
It’s one thing if your teenager doesn’t want to spend time with you because they don’t think you are cool anymore. Let’s face it, at some point, even you stopped wanting to spend time with your parents. However, if they get agitated or scared by your suggestions, something might be up.
- Weight fluctuations
As children grow, their bodies can rapidly change. This can be due to a growth spurt or regular physical activity. However, if your child has problems maintaining their weight, that could be one of the early warning signs of teen substance abuse. Even if the weight changes are not caused by substance abuse, they could indicate an eating disorder. Teenagers generally have issues with their body image, which can cause them to take on unhealthy habits. If your child wants to lose weight or gain muscle, you should recommend a sport or another healthy activity. When your teenager wants to change their appearance, explain that eating is only half of the equation.
- Irregular sleep patterns
Substance use can disrupt natural sleep cycles. If your child has trouble getting to sleep, or if they are sleeping too much at odd times – you could be witnessing early warning signs of teen substance use. Help them create a good sleeping routine and avoid excitable activities in the evening hours. There are several sleeping remedies you can try to fix these issues. Remember that irregular sleep patterns due to substance use often result in a lack of energy. If a person is using, even the sleep they are getting will not result in them feeling rested.
- Strange behavioral changes
Teens and quirky behavior, go figure. Joking aside, certain behaviors should raise suspicion. Look for sudden changes in behavior and appearance, such as:
- Avoidance, especially after coming home from a night out. This could be a way to hide red eyes or a bloody nose.
- A change in a social group. If your child is spending time with a new group and has forgotten about their old friends, you can make an effort to meet their new clique.
- Drop in grades. Good students don’t become dropouts overnight. Something must be causing the bad grades.
- Trouble with coordination. It’s worth investigating if your child becomes unusually clumsy.
- Health issues. Constantly feeling sick or under the weather could be an excuse to hide something.
Coming to terms with teen substance use
In case it turns out that your fears were justified, it might take both you and your child some time to come to terms with the fact that they are using. And once you accept the fact that your child might be in the claws of addiction, it’s time to search for addiction treatment therapy. These problems are best resolved once a person receives timely care. Moreover, communication is key for recovery, and the most important thing you can do is talk to your child. Addiction is a progressive disease, and we highly suggest that you seek therapy. Unfortunately, it can be challenging for most people to admit that they have a problem. This can be even harder for teenagers, and for this reason, you will have to be loving and supportive.
The bottom line
Although we’ve given you a list of early warning signs of teen substance use, we still have to recommend that you tread carefully. Teens that are growing into adulthood will naturally have a desire for privacy. However, substance use can quickly escalate and is not something you should take lightly. Remember that you are the person who knows your child best, so just keep an open eye for any signs of danger. No one said that being a parent would be easy, and it is up to you to find a way to protect your child while still respecting their boundaries.