Does My Teenager Need Addiction Help?

August 31, 2020

For a parent, trying to determine if your teenager has been or is using drugs or alcohol can be hard and emotionally painful. There are several signs to look for if you are concerned that your teen may be using and needs addiction help.

It can be challenging to face the fact that your teen is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction. Some parents even choose to avoid the conversation altogether because they are unsure how to cope with the answers they may receive. Unfortunately, avoiding or denying your teen’s addiction is likely to enable them to continue using. Statistics and stories of success show that early intervention is the key to sobriety and recovery. The sooner your teen can begin treatment, the more rapidly they can get on the path to recovery.

Teenager Substance Abuse Statistics

The most commonly abused drugs among teens are alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. However, other drugs are likely to be abused by certain age groups as well. In 2017, approximately 2.3 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 started to drink alcohol. Also, in 2017, around 1.2 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 used marijuana for the first time, and another 604,000 began using tobacco products. Hallucinogenic drug use, inhalant abuse, prescription opioid abuse, and other illicit drug use has also increased over the last decade among teens between ages 12 and 17.

Drug use in teens can cause complications and difficulties which impact the remainder of their lives. Teens who begin using drugs at an early age are more likely to develop a chronic substance use disorder, which extends into adulthood. As a parent, it is essential to understand the signs of drug abuse and the best way to address it.

Normal Teenager Behavior vs. Addictive Behavior

Teenager behaviors are often more extreme (and unpredictable) than those found during early childhood and pre-teen years. Teenagers are usually on a mission to identify their own identity, develop their personality, and exercise their personal preferences.  During these years, teens will often strive to separate themselves from parents and siblings by wanting more privacy and presenting a certain level if displeasure when “forced” to participate in family activities. They typically prefer to spend more time alone in their rooms or with their friends than with their parents. Parents often find this change in preference upsetting, but it is considered “normal” teen behavior in many cases.

Teenage addictive behavior looks different. When compared to healthy teenage development, teens who are engaging in substance abuse are more likely to engage in unusual, alarming, and extremely disruptive behaviors. Recent statistics show more than 20% of high school seniors in the United States will experiment with or regularly use illicit drugs. The overwhelmingly high frequency of teenage drug use necessitates parents to educate themselves on the signs of teen substance addition.

Signs of Drug Abuse in Teenagers

There are several signs your teen may be using drugs or alcohol and, as a result, needs addiction treatment at an addiction treatment facility like Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center in Agoura Hills, California. While discerning between teenage experimentation and substance abuse can be challenging, there are certain things to watch for that may better help you understand your teen’s behavior.

Changes to Normal Habits

As a parent, you are likely familiar with your teen’s daily habits and routines. Consequently, if your teen begins to make or has made drastic changes to these expected parts of their day, you are likely to notice. It is important to note; these are also the most straightforward changes to ignore as they sometimes seem like isolated events. It is helpful to watch for changes in your teen, such as new cravings, increased appetite (or lack of appetite), a significant difference in their social circle, failing grades, and complaints from teachers about their behavior.

Changes in Physical Appearance

Alterations in physical appearance will depend on the substance the individual uses, and consequently, they may be harder to spot. Watch out for things such as bloodshot eyes, flushed cheeks, disheveled appearance, poor hygiene or nosebleeds, and runny nose. The use of some drugs may result in unexplained bruises or track marks on the arms. If your teen is wearing long sleeves in hot weather, it may also be indicative of injectable drug use. Other important indicators include shaking or tremors, continually licking the lips and unexplained nosebleeds, or a runny nose. Again, physical changes will vary from person to person, so look for those things that are different in your teen specifically.

Secretive Behavior

Some teens are naturally more withdrawn and reserved than others, so this may be normal for your teen. However, when a teen who usually is extroverted and outgoing starts getting quiet or an introvert begins to withdraw more, it may be time to look closer at the reasoning. Look for changing behaviors such as locking doors, avoiding eye contact, stealing, and going out at night or disappearing for an extended period of time. Other indicators may include skipping classes, missing extracurricular activities, or not showing up for work.

Changes Around the Home

Parents know their home environment better than anyone. Some changes within your home may be subtle, whereas others should stand out as a blatant sign that something is wrong, and your teen may need addiction help. Keep a keen eye out for unusual events and changes around your home. These include containers or wrappers you do not recognize, missing prescription drugs, over the counter medications or alcohol and drug paraphernalia such as smoking devices, eye drops, butane lighters, and syringes.

Changing or Failing Grades

While this was mentioned above, it is worth a second mention in its own category. When teens begin using drugs or drinking alcohol, their grades are often the first thing to suffer. Depending on your teen, their previous grades, and the level to which they abuse substances, their grades may rapidly decline or slowly worsen over time. You may also receive calls from the school indicating concerns about your teen’s lack of participation in extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, or social events they were once an active part of.

Does Your Teenager Need Addiction Help?

If you suspect your teenager needs addiction help, it is essential to find a way to open the doors of communication as soon as possible. The earlier you can seek addiction help for your teen, the more likely they are to succeed in achieving sobriety and recovery. Make no mistake; these conversations are not easy, and, although you have suspicions, it may be difficult to have your suspicions confirmed.

Ask Questions Directly

It is essential to remember to ask, not accuse. Give your teen a chance to explain the situation. Do not be afraid to ask your teen direct questions such as “Are you using drugs?”, “What drugs are you using?”, and “Have you consumed alcohol?”

It is also essential to be prepared for what you are going to say (and how you may feel) if they tell you they have been using. You must be prepared, even if you believe they are completely clean, so your emotions do not dictate your reaction and derail the potential success of your conversation.

Get Addiction Help for Your Teenager

If your teenager is addicted to drugs or alcohol, don’t wait to get help. Many teens who are addicted to drugs or alcohol need assistance detoxing from the substance they are using. Some substances, such as alcohol and opioids, can be painful or even deadly to attempt to withdraw from without medical support. This process, known as medically supervised detox, occurs in a setting where your teen’s vital signs can be monitored, and medications can be administered to help reduce painful and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. In addition, medically supervised detox helps to monitor your teen for potentially dangerous side effects of withdrawal such as seizures, irregular heart rhythms, and difficulty breathing.

After detox, your teen can begin a treatment program at Hillcrest in Agoura Hills, CA.  Our individualized treatment programs are designed to treat your teen’s addiction and any underlying medical or coexisting mental health conditions they may have. It is essential to treat all conditions simultaneously, as chronic substance abuse can lead to further mental health conditions and vice versa. It is very difficult to recover from substance abuse and maintain sobriety if your teen is still struggling with a mental health condition.

Treatment programs for addiction can take place in a variety of settings. If your teen has reached a level of addiction where detox is necessary, an inpatient treatment program such as that offered at Hillcrest is likely the safest choice. At Hillcrest, our highly trained team of medical providers, nutritionists, therapeutic providers, nutritionists, and other care staff work with your teen to help them learn to manage the symptoms of their addiction. Through therapy, both individual and group sessions, your teen will learn how to manage triggers or other day to day situations, which lead them to reach for alcohol or drugs as a method of coping.

Addiction - In Therapy - Hillcrest

At Hillcrest, we understand that sending your child to an inpatient treatment program away from home may be one of the most challenging decisions you have to make as a parent. However, if your teen is struggling with addiction, seeking treatment and attaining sobriety are vital to helping them return home to a clean, healthy, and productive life. Unfortunately, teens who struggle with substance abuse and do not seek treatment often continue to fight against their addiction well into adulthood. In these cases, their addictions impact employment, relationships, their family, and their loved ones. If you believe your teen is struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs, don’t wait to seek addiction help. Contact us at Hillcrest in Agoura Hills today.


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