Early Warning Signs of Teenage Drug Use


The teenage years can be a time of testing, a time when your daughter discovers who she is and what she wants from life. Most often, these changes in behavior and attitude are beneficial and, after a few years of testing the boundaries, they arrive on the other side of the teenage years more independent, assertive, confident, and ready to go out in the world on their own.

Of course, it doesn’t always work this smoothly. Some troubled teens turn to unhealthy peer influences and end up making unhealthy choices that have a negative impact on their behavior and their future. One of the most significant choices is drug use.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that prescription drugs are a big problem among teenagers, who often think that they are safer than illegal drugs simply because they are prescribed by a doctor. According to data presented in 2014, 6.2 percent of teens between the age of 12 and 17 used pain relievers for non-medical use. On an average day during 2014, approximately 5,784 teens used these pain relievers for non-medical purposes for the first time. Often, it is a prescription that belongs to a family member.

A 2013 SAMHSA study revealed that drug abuse among teens between 12 and 17 accounts for several visits to the ER on any given day. Every 24 hours there are approximately:

  • – 26 visits for narcotic pain relievers
  • – 74 visits for nonprescription and prescription pain relievers
  • – 31 visits for benzodiazepines
  • – 32 visits for antipsychotics or antidepressants
  • – 11 visits for attention-deficient/hyperactivity disorder medications

As a parent of a teen, you want the best for your teen, and you want to protect them from the things that could hurt them. It’s sometimes hard to know when your daughter is using and abusing drugs, however. To help, here are some typical early warning signs you can watch out for.

Changes in Personal Appearance

Has your daughter’s appearance made a sudden and dramatic change? While changing her style of clothes or hair color may be signs she’s a typical teenager, troubled teens often have more dramatic changes, like poor hygiene, track marks on their arm (they may also cover their arms with long sleeves during warm weather to hide track marks,) burns or soot on lips and fingers, and a messy appearance.

Changes in Personal Habits

Does she smell of smoke? Are there unusual odors on her clothes or breath? Changes to her personal habits or actions may differ depending on what type of drug she is using. Some common early warning signs, however, include:

  • – Cash flow problems
  • – Frequent car accidents
  • – Avoiding eye contact
  • – Locked doors
  • – Sudden increase or decrease in appetite
  • – Changes in sleeping patterns
  • – Secretive phone calls

Behavioral Changes

Troubled teens who are using prescription or illegal drugs may be emotionally instable, change their relationships with friends or even family members and may display obnoxious behavior. They might laugh at nothing, be usually tired or lack coordination and balance.

In addition, they may begin having problems with school, including loss of interest in both classroom and after-class activities they used to enjoy. Teachers may complain about their work and their behavior, and their grades may drop significantly.

Getting help for troubled teens struggling with drug abuse is important. Look for the signs, talk to your teen and seek help from professionals experienced with teen drug rehabilitation. After detox and rehab, consider helping your teen further with a change to her environment. Sending her to a therapeutic boarding school like Greenbrier Academy for Girls can help with her recovery. Not only are there a variety of therapeutic options here and positive peer influence, but this drug-free environment also helps take your teen away from the people and places associated with her past drug use during early recovery.

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