Being a teenager has always been difficult. However, parenting or teaching teenagers can feel just as difficult. If you find yourself worried about your teen, concerned there might be some substance abuse issues, you may be wondering what signs to look for. While signs of substance abuse can vary from child to child, there are some behaviors you can keep your eyes peeled for.

The Prevalence and Risks

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 35 percent of high school students report using alcohol in the past month. As for illicit drugs, both illegal and prescription, over half of high schoolers have abused an illicit drug at least once by the time they reach their senior year.
Further, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that while use of some drugs has decreased over the past five years, there is also a corresponding decline in the perceived risk of harm from teens. Substance abuse and experimentation in teenagers can lead to increased risk of depression and other mental health issues, as well as increased physical health risks.
What to Look For

If you parent teenagers, work with teens, or are invested in a child’s life, it is important that you know possible signs of substance abuse for that age group. Below are just a few signs to look for, adapted from lists that are available in full from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the Partnership for Drug Free Kids.
• Poor hygiene
• Bloodshot eyes or larger pupils than normal
• Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping more than usual or insomnia)
• Changes in relationships with family or friends
• Sudden preference to be alone or isolated
• Changes in school performance, including skipping school or a sudden drop in grades
• Significant changes in personality or mood

What to Do Next

If you suspect that your child may be abusing or experimenting with drugs or alcohol, remind your child that you love them and care for them. Confront your fears and ask your child if they have been using substances, knowing that you might be met with a defensive teen. You can also join forces with local resources to find the support and treatment that you and your child need.

If you want more information about substance abuse in teens and adults, be sure to check out the information on our website.

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