How to Tell if Your Teen is Using Drugs - Warning Signs
Often, teens have begun to use drugs well before they may begin to exhibit the signs that parents, unconcerned about their teens, many notice. Statistics demonstrate that kids are becoming involved with drugs much earlier in their teens than almost any parent may suspect.
It is an unfortunate fact that teens begin to abuse drugs and other controlled substances months and even years before their parents may become aware of it; and even when children are caught or confess to it, parents commonly underestimate the extent to which their teens are involved. Like virtually any disease, early detection and intervention can make all the difference, so here are a number of tell-tale signs that a teen may be using drugs or alcohol:
Withdrawal from Normal Family Activities and Routines - Preferring to be alone in their room, keeping doors shut and locked, skipping dinner, uncommunicative, staying home rather than accompanying family on trips/outings/errands/movies, etc.
Neglecting Appearance - Slovenly dress, changes in typical dress and hygiene habits, often low self-image is reflected in apathy about wearing wrinkled or unwashed clothes and little attention to hair and cleanliness.
Slurred Speech - Many drugs (certainly alcohol and marijuana) may cause noticeable difficulties in verbal expression. When a teen comes home under the influence they're likely to keep communication to a minimum, or in an effort to "maintain" they may be unusually talkative and often stumble over their words. Most parents know their teen's speech like the back of their hands, and variances, however slight, are an unmistakable sign.
Violent or Unusual Outbursts - The vast variety of drugs available these days will likely cause many types of uncharacteristic behavior in your teen. Confrontations or even simple "clean your room" requests may trigger inappropriately defiant or caustic reactions - particularly if the teen is abusing a drug that produces symptoms of withdrawal. Watch for unprovoked irritability, when suffering these symptoms teens are highly emotional and vulnerable to confession and pleas for help, a good time to offer an olive branch.
Curfew Violation - Sudden disregard for agreed upon hours is a reliable sign that you may have a troubled teen. True, it could just as easily be a boy or girlfriend, but teens with time consuming drug or drinking habits will often invent relationships to cover their tracks. Teens are doing more than dabbling with drugs that were thought unspeakable a generation ago. Heroin has found its way into the suburbs and into the middle schools. Drugs like these and their pharmaceutical counterparts (Oxycontin) take time to come down from and frequent late returns at night is a sign not to be ignored.
Change of Friends - One of the most reliable indications that your teen is mixed up in some sort of trouble is either a sudden or gradual change of friends. The old adage "birds of a feather flock together" couldn't be more true than in this instance. Along with new behaviors comes new people to do them with. If you notice your teen hanging around with kids you don't approve of, or even "they" may not have approved of before, this is not a change you can afford to ignore.
Truancy, Suffering Grades, Lack of Motivation - Hopefully by the time a troubled teen has come to the point of skipping school and plummeting marks, there has been enough preliminary warning that parents are already aware their teen has serious problems. However, with the prevalence of one parent families with latch-key kids nothing is guaranteed. At this point, parents should have received help from school officials or student counselors. Again, by this time many of the above signs will have manifested themselves along with loss of interest in former school and church groups, hobbies, sports and other healthy pursuits.
Lying and Disrespect - Parents who have raised their kids with good values may suddenly begin catching their teens in lies. For example they tell you they're going to study at their old friend's house and you happen to drive by and see them hanging outside the bowling alley with kids they've never associated with before.
When your efforts to understand some change in their behavior are bluntly regarded as unwanted interference and a violation of their privacy, pay attention. When your teens get into things that they have to hide from you, your relationship with them will change, and the disrespect they can show can be hard to take. This is when they need a tough, caring parent; and if you fail to put your foot down now, you may be putting your money down later.
Depression and Apathy - There are several different things to look for here. If a normally happy and active teen begins to have problems with depression they may become apathetic about things they were passionate about not long ago. They may hole-up in their room and start listening to music they'd never been interested in before (i.e. death metal, gothic or emo).
It may also correspond with a change to darker, gothic, clothing style as well as chains, studs, piercing and tattoos. True, this type of thing can be a phase, but it is invariably tied to a change in peer group and parents should certainly make use of obvious signs such as these as well as the subtle ones.
Unusual and Sneaky Behavior - Along with drug abuse comes a whole host of tell-tale behavior. Frequent phone calls in whispered tones. The ubiquity of cell phones and pagers has changed this to some extent, but you may also use it to your advantage by checking the phone's call history and doing a bit of clandestine work yourself.
They may spend inordinate amounts of time in a locked bathroom, leave cracked windows, sneak in and out windows etc. Being a slave to a drug habit is difficult business if you have to conduct it behind the back of parents. Acquiring whatever substance can turn into a full-time obsession, and between home phone, cell phone and e-mail it can leave a trail of evidence.
Drug addiction can cause teens to be forgetful and if you notice yours suddenly doing a lot of suspicious sneaky things, I recommend fighting fire with fire. Is it okay for you to be sneaky and invade the privacy of your troubled teen? Absolutely. It's your home and a drug addict can lay waste to a home.
Drama Kings and Queens - When teens get in over their heads with substance abuse, they will do a lot of things to give themselves away. Most habits require daily maintenance, which is not easy with limited resources, transportation and availability.
Consequently, if you have a teen who has painted themselves into such a corner, they will likely be irritable, verbally abusive and even violent with siblings and parents. They may gTo off on rants about how bad their life and the world is, threaten to run away, quit school, trash their plans for the future.
In short, they can turn a happy home into a house from hell. They may stay awake for days in a row, but the biggest tip-off is that they will crash and require long periods of sleep. his is a perfect time to do your snooping and make plans to team up and intervene. They're being disruptive, manipulative (watch for threats of suicide) disrespectful, self-centered and abusive.
This isn't normal teen angst and no conscientious parent should stand by and allow it. Tough love is the deepest love.
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I'm Worried My Teen Might be Using Drugs? How Can I Find Out?
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Body Evidence - You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to detect the typical physical signs of teens in trouble. Starting at the top is bloodshot eyes. Most often marijuana is the culprit but not the only suspect. Look for a bottle of Visine in a purse, jacket pocket or glove compartment.
Follow the paper trail, Zig Zags, roach clips, (look for smelly black resin near the tip), butane lighters, pipes, ziplock baggies of all sizes, bongs, bindles (square folded pieces of paper, check for powder or green residue), weight scales, crumpled balls of tin foil.
Check the cigarette lighter in their car, roaches (follow your nose - teens will want to save them, but getting high makes you forgetful). Arm yourself with knowledge any police department would probably be happy to let you inspect and smell various confiscated goodies. There are websites that can help you identify any pills you may happen to find in their possession (no they're not holding onto them for a friend).
There are also websites devoted to helping parents identify paraphernalia for meth and crack use, cocaine and heroin. Being a parent of a troubled teen is something that you can get good at. Be prepared in advance!
Body of Evidence - Many of the drugs that lead teens to trouble leave behind bodily evidence. Sudden weight loss is not the Atkins Diet. Meth (Crystal), cocaine, crank, crack are the usual suspects. Meth is taking our teens down by the thousands - look for changes in their teeth (discoloration, decay), their bodies (skin lesions and scabs, sores usually on arms, knuckles, hands), drawn, sallow-eyed, pasty, emaciated, chronic insomnia and accompanying crash, paranoia and constipation. They also have a strange chemical smell to their breath.
If you think your teen may be on Meth don't wait. Do whatever you can do NOW! Weight gain can be the result of Marijuana (increased appetite and inactivity) alcohol (lots of calories). Also be on the look out if your teen is suddenly wearing long-sleeves all the time, or unwilling to undress around you. They may be hiding tracks, scabs, swelling from amateur needle work.
Who knows - you may have a teen with that strange compulsion to self-mutilate. Cocaine users have raw nostrils, sniffle and wipe their nose frequently. Opiate users (heroin, pain killers, etc.) will scratch themselves frequently, heavy users may nod-off or zone out but frequent users are easier to spot when they're not on the drug and need it.
When they're on, they seem like their happy normal selves but they can't control their pupil dilation - if in a well lit room everybody's pupils are pencil points, but theirs are eraser big, watch for the scratching. Financial Woes
Just Give Me Money - Perhaps the easiest sign to detect is missing money. A teen in trouble with drugs needs money to keep them coming. If they suddenly need to borrow money to help a friend in distress, or get their car fixed etc. Insist on conducting the charity or seeing to the repair yourself. Make a point of knowing how much money you have in your wallet or purse.
Keep valuables locked away or in storage and be able to discern when valuables turn up missing. If your teen has a personal bank account or ATM cards, monitor the activity. Also, be on the lookout for unexplainable valuables that they may have hidden in their room or car. If your teen has turned to crime in order to support their habit, you'll be lucky if it isn't too late for intervention.
Low Budget Highs Like Huffing and Puffing - While many know that most teens get their first illicit pleasure from smoking (cigarettes are easy to get or steal and inexpensive) but few people realize the number of young teens who are taking a cheap and very destructive path to pleasure by "huffing." You don't hear a lot about it, but huffing is one of the more alarming drug epidemics we face.
For teens between the ages of 12-14, inhalants are the third most abused substance behind alcohol and tobacco. Hairspray, whipped cream, air freshener and spray paint are just some of the products that contain butane or toluene which cause damage to the lungs, liver, kidney and bone marrow not to mention brain damage.
Magic markers, glue, industrial cleaners and paint thinner are not only dangerous but deadly. Teens that go down this road are in more than trouble, they're risking their lives often before they make it to High School. Here's a rundown of tell-tale signs of huffing: Nonsensical speech, bloodshot eyes, soars around mouth, frequent headaches, possession of markers, correction fluid, intoxicated appearance and actions, poor concentration, chemical smell on clothes, unusual breath odor and decreased appetite.
The Straight Facts on Teen Inhalant Abuse
Inhalant abuse might be considered "no big deal" by teens, but it can be an incredibly addictive and dangerous problem.
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The Facts About Teen Prescription Drug Abuse
If you are a parent, you might be concerned that your teen son or daughter is abusing illegal drugs or alcohol. But many parents don't realize that one of the biggest dangers impacting teens and young adults today is the misuse of prescription drugs.
Residential treatment programs throughout the country have seen an upswing in the number of teens who need help with prescription drug addictions.
According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan for the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in December 2009, seven of the ten most commonly-abused drugs by teens are prescription or over-the-counter drugs. The medicines abused can range from cough syrup to powerful opiates such as Oxycontin and Vicodin.
Teens who are addicted to prescription drugs need help at residential treatment facilities -- not only are these drugs addictive but abuse is a sign of deeper psychological issues.
One of the most disturbing aspects of prescription drug abuse is just how easy it is for teens to obtain pills and other forms of medicine. High schools, military academies and boys boarding schools around the country have had to deal with students ordering prescription drugs from the Internet, faking symptoms in order to get prescriptions filled and stockpiling drugs in order to "trade" them with other students.
Another issue with prescription drug abuse among teens is the common perception that they aren't as dangerous as other illicit substances such as cocaine or methamphetamines. Many teens make a clear distinction between the type of "drug addict" who is addicted to hard drugs and can benefit from Christian recovery programs and a student who uses "harmless" prescription drugs.
As a parent, it's important that you take an active role in keeping your teenager free of prescription drug abuse. Make sure any prescription drugs you take are securely stored where your children don't have access. If you suspect that your child is abusing prescription drugs, don't hesitate to act -- sit down with them and have a frank discussion about the dangers of prescription drugs.
You may want to consider a drug treatment program if their issue is severe. If they are experimenting with prescription drugs, another alternative would be wilderness programs designed to give them the confidence and self-respect to avoid peer pressure.
More on this Topic
Teen Rehab Centers Offer Hope for Sober Living
If your teen has all the aforementioned warning signs and is not yet using or experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol, it probably won't be long before they start. Teens who exhibit most or all of the previously mentioned warning signs are not feeling very good about who they are and as a result, will have little respect for themselves and others. Once the personal respect is gone, there is not much stopping them from doing self-destructive things such as using drugs.
Teens are not immune to mental health disorders. Just like adults, adolescents go through difficulties in life which may lead to depression, self-harm, acting out and drug and alcohol abuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, there are an estimated 10.8 million underage drinkers in the U.S. Unfortunately, when left untreated, alcohol and drug dependence can lead to greater problems.
In order to treat the addiction and offer a chance for a brighter future, parents can decide to send their adolescents to teen rehab centers.
High-Quality Rehab Treatment Centers
Across the nation, there are many high-quality rehab centers that offer medical care and treatment to teens suffering from drug or alcohol abuse. However, it important to select a rehab center that provides a treatment plan based on each individual's specific needs.
In addition, look for a rehab center that will offer support for the entire family such as a facility that provides family counseling services. In addition to treating family conflicts, high-quality rehab centers should be equipped to address a number of issues, including alcohol and drug abuse, mental wellness and school related difficulties.
Many of the facilities for troubled teens that offer alcohol and drug addiction treatment also offer medical detoxification, long-term residential rehab, sober living housing and aftercare.
In addition, these treatment centers offer anger management counseling, community education services, and many other services designed to treat every aspect of recovery and sober living. As part of an ongoing approach to recovery, parents can send their children to summer wilderness programs or other camps where they can continue proper counseling and delve into deeper issues.
When provided with proper medical attention and the support of either Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, teens have a greater chance of recovery and wellness than those who do not receive the same treatment. Give your child a second chance by admitting him or her into a teen rehab center today.
I've Caught My Teenager Smoking Weed, Now What?
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My Teen is Lying About Using Drugs? What Can I Do?
Finding out that our teens are involved in drugs is always an extremely emotional moment to us parents. It is all too easy to vent out our anger, frustration, and disappointment without taking the time to calm down and think.
The next thing we know, we already have said or did things that we should not have, and which will negatively impact not only our teens' welfare but their future as well.
When you suspect or find out that your teen is on drugs, it is best if you calm down first by allowing some time to pass before you confront your teen — even if it means waiting until the next day.
Besides, it will be much more productive if your teen is also sober. Confrontation will not be easy, but the point is to provide help and intervention as early as possible. If you are concerned at all about your teenager's welfare, you should start the conversation even if it is just a bad feeling.
Even in the face of mounting evidence, some teens will still deny using drugs. Remember, the intuition of concerned parents who truly love their kids is almost always right. Look for signs and symptoms of drug use/drug abuse.
Check out his or her friends, investigate their usual hangout places, keep track of their activities and talk to other parents. If your intuition is backed by unusual signs, then he or she probably is into drugs.
Take note, you do not need hard evidence, i.e. the presence of pipes rolled tissue paper, small medicine bottles, eye drops, or butane lighters, etc. You only need details and observations, such as him getting thinner without reason, or the inexplicable need of money, red eyes, or habitual breaking of curfew hours, etc. to use as a weight for the conversation.
Sometimes, your teen might reason out that what they did was purely experimental and a one-time thing, and there is nothing wrong about it. However, any drug use can quickly turn into drug abuse, then drug dependence and drug addiction.
What if your teenager is really into drugs? What can I do?
Drug use is a serious matter which is why it is recommended to act upon it immediately. Most parents, however, do not know what to do once their teen confesses of using drugs. Here are some of the few things you can do:
Drug test your teen: Drug testing your kid may be one of the things that you will probably need to do. You can have a professional conduct a drug testing for you, or you can buy drug test kits that are sold in pharmacies. In any case, you will need drug test results in order to enroll your teen in an intervention program. Likewise, some programs will require their own drug and alcohol assessments in order to tailor a program that is best suited for your teen.
Set limits, rules and consequences: Anyone, not just only teenagers, does not do well with gray areas, which is why there are new laws created every time. You need to lay down clear-cut rules and regulations in the house and set firm consequences if these rules are broken. You need to be specific; for example, instead of saying "no smoking in the house", it should be "do not let me see or suspect you smoking".
Additionally, be firm with your consequences so your teen knows you are serious. If the consequence is 50% cut off his allowance for a month, then it should be a non-negotiable allowance cut for a month.
Monitoring your teen's activities: As parents, you have a powerful influence in the lives of your teenagers. When you make it a habit knowing about your teen - who they are with, what they are doing, and where they are spending their time - you reduce your teens' risks with regards to unwanted pregnancy, cigarette use, or alcohol and drug abuse. Make it a habit to call or text him every two hours or so.
Provide him or her a mobile phone with long battery life so you can check in with your teen at any time. Get to know his or her peers and their parents. Talk to your teen about their activities or whether they are making safe choices. And if the situation allows, educate your teen regarding the right choices.
Get professional help: There are times when your efforts alone may not be enough to cope with your teen's problems. In such cases a professional help is necessary. If you don't know where to start, you can send us an email regarding your problem.
Alternately, you can also contact one of our featured schools at 1-800-845-1413 for free expert advice.
The Right Environment for a Teen with Drug Problems
In hundreds of cases, a residential program has been a treatment of choice for teens battling with drug addiction. One of the main reasons for this is the success rate, which has remained consistently high over the years. Furthermore, according to SAMHSA, continuing education seems to likely to influence the success of the treatment.
That said, the environment will always be a vital aspect, and for this reason, many experts will always recommend a positive environment, where aside from structure and discipline, there is also love, care, and support.
If you are unsure whether you or your home can commit to a degree care and support, as well as structure and discipline, try to put your teen in a place - or in a program where all these requirements are in place. For example, residential programs are known to be an effective treatment for teens with substance issues.
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