How To Tell If Your Child Is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol
Substance abuse is a very serious and scary disorder, especially when your child is struggling with it. If your teenager is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you should take action and get them the help they need as soon as possible. However, the similarities between the symptoms of drug abuse and the typical behaviors of a rebellious teenager may make it hard to determine when your child is addicted to drugs. Additionally, your child might get angry with you and lose trust in you if you wrongfully accuse them of using drugs. So how do you know when your teenage child is actually struggling with addiction, and what next steps should you take to approach them?
Addiction & Adolescence: How They Connect
Unfortunately, drugs are more available to teenagers today than ever before. They can find or purchase substances like MDMA and prescription opioids in a variety of places, from a relative’s medicine cabinet to their friend who sells illegal drugs. While not every person who experiments with drugs will become addicted, the risk is higher when the individual is younger. So if someone starts using drugs or alcohol in excess during their adolescence, they are at a higher risk for developing a substance abuse problem.
Signs of Drug Use and Abuse in Teens
All substances have different mental and physical side effects, so it may be hard to tell when your child is using. There are also many ways for teens to hide the physical signs, like glassy or red eyes. Therefore, you’ll have to focus on how your child is acting to determine whether or not they are dealing with an addiction. While the side effects vary between each type of substance, there are some general warning signs that your child may be addicted to drugs or alcohol.
A teenager who has a substance abuse disorder may display the following behaviors:
- Getting lower grades or having poor performance at school
- Having drug-related items in their pockets, room, or backpack
- Being frequently late to/absent from school or work
- Lying about or not telling you where they’re going
- Disrespecting family members or rules
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Needing and spending a lot of money
- Appearing unhappy or depressed
- Spending a lot of time in their room
- Overreacting to criticism
- Changing their friend groups
- Having mood swings or being erratic
- Breaking curfew or sneaking out
- Giving excuses for their bad behavior
- Having poor hygiene habits
- Sharing few details about their personal lives
- Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
- Emotionally, verbally, or physically attacking others
- Taking money from your wallet or home
- Having a sudden increase or decrease in appetite
- Losing or gaining a significant amount of weight
- Frequently losing valuable items or money
It is important to remember that even if your child is being secretive and withdrawn, that does not necessarily mean that they are addicted to drugs. You should trust your instincts as a parent, but you should not accuse them of drug or alcohol use without knowing for sure.
Is Your Child Addicted to Drugs Or Alcohol?
So how do you know if your child actually has an addiction? Take a look at the whole picture. Even if they don’t have a substance abuse problem, your teenager is likely struggling with something serious if they are displaying the mannerisms and patterns above.
The only way to truly find out if your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol is to talk to them about it. But since it’s common for people with addictions to push back when approached about it, they might not want to admit it or discuss the situation with you. A teenager will only discuss their addiction with you if you approach the conversation in the right way and if they feel like they can trust you to do the right thing with the information.
When talking to your child about drug use, try your best to remain calm. They might not be able to stay calm in the moment, so it is up to you to keep your composure. You should also be sure to focus on your child’s behaviors and feelings, not how their actions are affecting you. Instead of shaming them for using drugs, tell them that their drug abuse doesn’t define them and that you can help them make better choices. It is also essential to remind your child how much you love and care for them throughout the conversation.
If your child does have a substance abuse problem, they might not want to admit it right away. You should be prepared to potentially have this talk with your child several times. If they either admit to having a problem or resist discussing it but keep showing signs, it may be time to intervene and get professional addiction treatment for your teenager.
Treating Substance Abuse in Teenagers
The main thing to remember is that it is not your job to handle this alone. Both you and your child deserve support and help to get through this difficult time. A doctor or psychologist will be able to talk to you about your situation and recommend a treatment plan that works for your family. Treatment methods may include a combination of talk therapy, group counseling, medication, support meetings, and more.
To learn more about substance abuse in teenagers, contact our team of addiction treatment specialists by calling 866-345-2147.