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Recognizing the Signs of Adolescent Substance Abuse

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Signs of Adolescent Substance Abuse
Picture of Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Dr. Mohsin Ali MD is board certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Trained in Syracuse NY, he has worked in Tennessee for the last sixteen years.

Table of Contents

Substance abuse in adolescence is a growing concern worldwide, and as parents, teachers, or guardians, it’s essential to stay informed about the signs and symptoms. Adolescent substance abuse can lead to grave consequences, both immediate and in the future. By recognizing these signs early on, you can intervene and guide them towards the adolescent IOP program that may be critically needed..

Understanding Adolescent Substance Use

Before diving into the signs of substance abuse in teens, it’s vital to grasp the broader picture. Adolescence is a period marked by significant physical, emotional, and psychological changes. These changes, coupled with the pressures of peer acceptance, academic expectations, and personal identity formation, can make teens more susceptible to experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Signs of Adolescent Substance Abuse

  1. Behavioral Changes: One of the first signs of substance abuse in any age group, but especially in teens, is a drastic change in behavior. This might include a sudden drop in academic performance, skipping classes, or withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities and hobbies.
  2. Shifts in Social Circles: A sudden change in friends, especially if the new group is known for substance use, can be a red flag. Teens might be secretive about these new friends or may not want to introduce them to their families.
  3. Physical Symptoms: Substance abuse in teens can manifest in various physical ways, including bloodshot eyes, unexplained weight loss or gain, frequent nosebleeds (which could be a sign of snorted drugs), and unusual odors on their breath, body, or clothing.
  4. Mood Swings: While adolescence is often associated with moodiness, abrupt and intense mood swings might indicate substance use. This can include episodes of unexplained hyperactivity, agitation, or even bouts of intense paranoia.
  5. Decreased Motivation: A significant decline in motivation and energy can be a telling sign. Teens might show a lack of interest in future planning or become indifferent about personal goals.
  6. Secretive Behavior: Sneaking around, being overly secretive about whereabouts, or consistently locking doors can indicate that a teen is trying to hide something, like substance abuse in adolescence.
  7. Missing Money or Valuables: If you start noticing money missing or if valuables begin to disappear without explanation, it might be used to finance a growing substance habit.
  8. Defensiveness: If approached with concerns, a teen involved in substance use might become highly defensive or aggressive. They might also provide improbable explanations for their behaviors.
  9. Neglecting Appearance: A typically well-groomed teen might start neglecting their personal hygiene and appearance. This lack of self-care is often indicative of deeper issues, including substance abuse.
  10. Evidence of Drugs or Paraphernalia: Discovering drugs, equipment associated with drug use (like pipes, rolling papers, and syringes), or even finding stashes of unknown pills or substances is a direct indication of adolescent substance use.

Tackling the Issue of Adolescent Substance Use

Recognizing the signs of adolescent substance abuse is just the first step. The next is understanding how to approach the situation. Confronting a teen suspected of substance use requires care, understanding, and patience. It’s essential to create an environment where they feel safe to share without immediate reprimand.

Open a dialogue, express your concerns, and, most importantly, listen. Sometimes, the root of substance abuse lies in underlying issues like stress, depression, or peer pressure. Understanding these root causes can help in guiding the teen to the right resources or professional help.

Recognizing and Addressing Adolescent Substance Abuse: Keys to Early Intervention and a Healthier Future

Substance abuse in adolescence is a pressing issue that many families face. Early detection and intervention can pave the way for recovery and a healthier future for the teen involved. Stay vigilant, keep communication lines open, and always seek to understand the underlying reasons behind a teen’s choice to turn to substances. By fostering a supportive environment and being informed about the signs, you can be better prepared to help guide a teen away from the path of substance abuse.

If your adolescent is facing substance abuse challenges in Tennessee, contact Iris Wellness Group for adolescent IOP Treatment. Begin a transformative treatment journey with us and help your adolescent find their way back to health and well-being.

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