Many parents worry about child or teenage drug use, especially as their kids develop physically and mentally. Unchecked drug use can lead to a wide range of negative physical and mental health effects, including trauma, injuries, and mental health disorders. If you’re a parent, you need to know the signs of drug use in teenagers to intervene or admit your child to a treatment program, if necessary.
Common Signs of Drug Use in Teens
When teenagers use illegal or dangerous drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiates, they oftentimes display signs that parents can watch for. Some of the most common signs of teenage drug use include but are not limited to:
- Requests to borrow money or money “vanishing” from your wallet or purse
- Changes in friend groups
- Negative changes in terms of schoolwork, grades, or school attendance
- Changes in clothing
- Changes in behavior, particularly with familial or friend relationships – a desire to spend less time at home and less time talking to parents could be a negative sign
- Using eyedrops more frequently, which can be used to mask red or bloodshot eyes
- Evidence of drug use like rolling papers, pipes, or white dust
- Prescription drugs missing from the medicine cabinet
- Physical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, aches, tremors, and irritability, all of which may be associated with drug withdrawal
Keeping Kids Safe from Drugs
When it comes to keeping children safe from drugs, paying attention is the number one way in which you can fulfill your duty as a parent. By keeping an eye on your child and their behavior, you can catch some of the early signs of drug use before it becomes an addiction or learn when your child might be at a greater risk of trying illegal or illicit drugs.
More importantly, all parents should have frank conversations with their children about drugs, their risks, and the negative health effects associated with using drugs. An open conversation free from judgment is the best way to convince your child that you are ultimately on their side.
How to Talk to a Child About Drugs
Many parents find it difficult to talk to their children – especially teenagers, who may have more rebellious personalities – about drugs.1
One of the most important things to establish is trust. Your teenager won’t talk to you about their drug use or desires if they don’t think they can trust you without judgment. For example, you can make an agreement with your teenager by stating that you will always come to pick them up, even in the middle of the night, if they are at risk of drinking and driving or using drugs, no questions asked, so long as they call you when they need you.
It’s also important to provide your teenager with unbiased learning materials about the effects of drug use, including health consequences. That way, they learn drug use’s physical and mental risks without wondering if you’re exaggerating.
Above all else, strive to maintain an open and supportive environment when talking to your teen about drugs. They need to feel that you will be there for them, even if they mess up. Overly strict or disciplinary conversations or parenting styles can cause teenagers to close up, leading to a greater risk of drug usage or overdosing in risky situations.
Getting Help if Your Teen is Using Drugs
If your teen is currently using drugs, you may be able to help them by admitting them to an inpatient residential drug treatment program, like the kind we offer at Ember Recovery.
At Ember, we offer gender-specific and inclusive residential drug treatment programs, including inpatient programs for boys, girls, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition, we offer dual diagnosis treatment options for teens to help identify any underlying mental health conditions that may make your teenager more at risk of drug use and abuse.
We provide individualized recovery plans for each patient at our facility and offer supplementary services such as psychiatry and medication management if necessary. Our experts utilize therapeutic techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and trauma therapy to help your teenager access the support and skills they need to overcome drug addiction.
If your teenager needs help, don’t wait. Every day counts, so contact Ember Recovery today to learn about our treatment options and inpatient programs.
Andrea Dickerson is a Licensed Therapist and Certified Substance Use Counselor who has worked in behavioral health since 1997. Currently, Andrea is the Director of Behavioral Health, overseeing the Ember residential treatment programs and YSS outpatient counseling clinics throughout Central and North Central Iowa. She became a Motivational Interviewing (MI) trainer in 2006 and provides MI trainings throughout Iowa.
Andrea specializes in working with adolescents and their families and enjoys seeing the family relationships grow through therapy. Andrea is also a CARF International Surveyor, going around North America ensuring behavioral health organizations are meeting required standards.
In her free time, Andrea enjoys cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes and Chicago Cubs, as well as being an active member of Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA), a global organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment. She has been a member of the SI of Des Moines club since 2012 and has been actively involved at the regional level, currently serving as Co-Governor of the Peaks to Plains Region.
Through her involvement in SIA, Andrea has been actively involved in the Dream Programs, coordinating annual Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls projects, which give girls the tools they need to achieve their education and career goals, empowering them to break cycles of poverty, violence, and abuse.