You Found Out Your Teen is Abusing Drugs: Now What?

You Found Out Your Teen is Abusing Drugs: Now What?

July 29, 2022

Parenting often comes with challenges and emotionally complex moments. For a parent, one of the most difficult things to learn is that your teen is abusing drugs. If you are worried your teen may suffer from a substance use disorder, there are several potential signs you can look for. While it may be challenging to acknowledge that your teen has an unhealthy relationship with drugs, it is crucial to actively engage in the conversations or actions that can help them get the help they need. Statistics 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.  


Is it “Normal” Teen Behavior or Addiction?

Teen behavior can be challenging to analyze sometimes. It is not uncommon for teen moods to change in unpredictable and sometimes extreme ways. The teen years are highlighted by one attempts to develop a sense of “self” and forge with exploring independence and freedom. Throughout puberty, teens strive to solidify their personality, personal preferences and, perhaps most importantly, separate themselves from their parents. Many teens lose the desire to spend time socializing with family and siblings.


Instead, they prefer to spend time in their rooms, engaging in social activities with friends, or spending time on social media. While this notable change in behavior is often difficult for parents to accept, it is generally considered “normal” behavior for most teens. 


If your teen suffers from a substance disorder, their behavior likely looks different. When compared to healthy or expected teen behaviors, the behaviors of teens engaging in substance abuse may appear more erratic, unusual, or alarming. 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 teen drug use necessitates parents to educate themselves on the signs of teen substance addition and what to do if they learn their teen is abusing drugs. 


Teen Substance Abuse Statistics

Recent statistics show the most commonly abused substance among adolescents and teens are marijuana, tobacco, and marijuana, but data on the abuse of other substances is statistically significant. In 2017, approximately 2.3 million youth 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 have also increased over the last decade among teens between the ages of 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.


What are the Signs of Teen Drug Abuse?

Before it is possible to know what to do if you learn your teen is abusing drugs, it is crucial to understand what the signs of drug use in teens look like. There are many potential indicators your teen may have a destructive relationship with drugs or alcohol and could benefit from a teen-focused addiction treatment program at Hillcrest in Los Angeles, California. 


Changes in Physical Appearance

Alterations in physical appearance will depend on the substance the individual uses; consequently, they may be harder to spot. Watch out for signs 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 abusing drugs, they will wear long sleeves in hot weather, which may also indicate injectable drug use. Other critical 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, going out at night, or disappearing for an extended period. Other indicators may include skipping classes, missing extracurricular activities, or not showing up for work.


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 that 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. 


Changing or Failing Grades

While mentioned above, it is worth a second mention in a specific paragraph. When teens begin using drugs or drinking alcohol, their grades are often the first to suffer. Depending on your teen, their previous grades, and the severity of substance abuse, 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. 


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.  


Getting Addiction Treatment Help for Your Teen 

As a parent, learning your teen is abusing drugs can be emotionally challenging, but it is crucial to remember not to blame yourself or spend time focusing on “why.” It is essential to open the doors of communication with your teen and move forward towards getting them the help they need to get well. Statistics show that early intervention is vital to safely and successfully overcome a substance use disorder and maintain lasting sobriety and recovery. While the thought of sending your teen to a rehab program may be challenging to accept, comprehensive and supported addiction treatment at a program like Hillcrest is the best first step on your child’s journey to recovery.


If your teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol, don’t wait to get help. Many teens addicted to drugs or alcohol need assistance detoxing from the substance they are using before they can safely move towards sobriety and recovery. 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 safe and comfortable environment where doctors and treatment professionals can monitor your teen’s vital signs and, if necessary, administer medications 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 Los Angeles, 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 tough 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 severity of addiction where detox is necessary, an inpatient treatment program such as that offered at Hillcrest is likely the safest choice. Members of our highly trained, experienced team of medical providers, nutritionists, therapeutic providers, and mental health treatment professionals work closely with your teen and family to help them learn more about substance abuse disorders and how 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.


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 suffers from drug or alcohol use disorder symptoms, seeking help and getting sober are essential to helping them return home to a clean, healthy, and productive life. Unfortunately, teens with substance use disorders who do not get addiction treatment often continue to fight addiction symptoms well into adulthood.


In these cases, their addictions often impact employment, relationships, family, and loved ones. If you learned (or are concerned) your teen is abusing alcohol or drugs, don’t wait to seek addiction help. Contact us at Hillcrest in Los Angeles, CA, today to learn more about our teen-focused rehab and how we can help your teen begin their journey towards freedom from addiction.