6 Signs of Teen Substance Abuse

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Teens represent an age group in which experimentation with substance use has been very common. Often seen in social situations, teen substance use can be a phase. Unfortunately, there are many teens who lose themselves to dependency and develop an addiction that must be controlled for the remainder of their lives. 

When an individual becomes addicted to a chemical substance, he or she will begin experiencing a number of effects or symptoms. This includes the deterioration of one’s physical health and wellness, negative changes in behavior and social activity, and even a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment from life. As a disease, addiction damages every aspect of a person’s life, turning someone with potential and ambition into an individual who sacrifices relationships and resorts to criminal behavior to sustain a substance abuse habit.

However, before an individual becomes someone with a substance use disorder, he or she must first be a substance abuser. An individual who is abusing alcohol or drugs has not yet become physically dependent on chemical substances but is beginning to increase the frequency of getting intoxicated for enjoyment. People of all ages can experiment with recreational substance use for a number of reasons, including self-medication for physical or psychological afflictions, using alcohol or drugs as a social lubricant, or even as a coping mechanism.

As such, it’s important for parents to be aware of certain signs that can alert them if or when their teens are abusing dangerous mind-altering substances. The following are six signs that your child could be engaging in teen substance abuse.

1. Change in Personal Appearance

When an individual is abusing mind-altering substances on an increasingly frequent basis, he or she will often begin to exhibit changes in appearance; teens are no exception. With increased intoxication comes less concern about one’s cleanliness and presentation. Teens and even adults who are abusing drugs often appear unkempt, messy, and perhaps even unclean as if they haven’t bathed.

2. New Peers & Social Circle

It’s often said that birds of a feather flock together. Although there are exceptions to almost any rule, people tend to prefer to interact with those with whom they share similar interests. In the case of teen substance abuse, they will likely begin to socialize with other teenage substance abusers. It’s also been found that peers can be a major motivator for a teen’s choosing to abuse alcohol and drugs.

Studies have indicated that, much like adults, teens weight the benefits and risks of substance abuse when deciding whether it’s something they want to do. Unlike adults, though, teens tend to beless concerned about the risks when there is any benefit at all, such as social status and fitting in with others. Moreover, teen substance users will often stop socializing with their previous friends if they aren’t interested in substance use.

3. Decline in Academic Performance

Although it’s very common for teens to experiment with intoxication—especially using substances like alcohol or marijuana—some teens are further enticed by the prospect of recreational substance use and begin to do it more often. A very common result of a teen’s frequent substance use is a decline in his or her academic performance. As teen substance users spend more and more of their free time partying and getting intoxicated rather than completing homework assignments and studying, this dangerous behavior has a negative effect on their grades.

4. Change in Interests & Hobbies

Teens often experiment with a variety of hobbies and activities as they try to figure out what it is that they are most interested in. Sports, music, creative arts, creative writing, and community services are just a few of the many options that teens may explore. However, at the onset of an increasing substance use problem, teens are quick to give up on all of their previous interests. Playing sports or making art will no longer be important.

When a teen is confronted about this sudden disinterest, he or she will be unlikely to have an explanation, attributing the decision to his or her simply becoming uninterested in the hobby. Additionally, the teen’s demeanor may seem ambivalent, giving off strong signs of teen substance abuse.

5. Change in Appetite

Most mind-altering substances can be considered either a depressant or a stimulant. However, each type of drug tends to have a pretty major impact on a user’s appetite. Depressants like alcohol or marijuana may lead to an increase in a teen’s appetite, while opioids—heroin and opiate painkillers—often lead to a loss of appetite.

Common stimulants include cocaine and the pharmaceutical drug Adderall, each of which is notable for causing a marked decline in an individual’s appetite. As a result of a change in eating habits, teen substance abusers will exhibit a rapid change in weight, either becoming heavier or much thinner due to the effect of substance abuse on appetite.

6. Abnormal Behavior & Demeanor

The behavioral changes that result from substance abuse are many and varied whether the substance abuser is an adult or a teen. As a result of substance abuse, individuals will often seem disinterested in a family and home life. Moreover,teen substance users tend to be secretive and spend a lot of time separate from their families. 

It’s also common for teens who are abusing drugs to begin lying to their parents regularly, even about things that it doesn’t seem they would need to lie about. Substance abuse can make teens irritable and easily aggravated, which causes them to be moody much of the time and seemingly without provocation.

 Teens Substance Abuse Help

Experimenting with substance abuse is like playing with fire, daring it to rage out of control. Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs are inviting the disease of addiction to ravage their lives. As such, it’s important to intervene. Learn about the top abused drugs by teens and how to approach teens here




Rebecca Bryan
Digital Content Editor

Rebecca is a published professional writer with credits on several international, national and local publications. She is a strong advocate for sharing accurate information and providing content that benefits the reader.

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