Signs of Teen Drug Use & How Teen Treatment Centers in Iowa Can Help
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You’re not alone if you’re concerned your teen is using drugs. Recent survey results found that 18% of 8th and 32% of 12th graders have used illicit drugs over the past year. 1 How do you know if your child is among this group? Several signs can be red flags of teen drug use. We will review these signs and let you know what you can do if you suspect your child is using drugs. We’ll also explore how teens can benefit from help at teen treatment centers in Iowa when they have a substance use disorder.

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Looking for Signs of Teen Drug Use Before Contacting Teen Treatment Centers in Iowa

Signs of teen drug use can present themselves physically, behaviorally, and emotionally.2

Physical Signs

Physical signs may be the most obvious that your teen may be using drugs. Here are some things to look for:

  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Red eyes and cheeks
  • Constricted pupils
  • Chronic nosebleeds
  • Lack of interest in grooming or appearance
  • Paranoia
  • Headaches
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Swollen face


While physical signs may be easier to spot, there are behavioral problems that can also suggest there is drug use going on. These are things to keep an eye on:

  • Breaking curfew without a reasonable excuse
  • Excessive attempts to be alone
  • Hiding things and looking for privacy
  • Changes in relationships with family
  • Losing interest in hobbies
  • Sudden changes in sleep patterns
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Edginess


Teens may show emotional red flags that could indicate drug use, such as:

  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Extreme sadness
  • Irritability
  • Change in sleep patterns

If you notice a few of these signs, you may want to look closer at your child’s activities, as they could signal a drug or alcohol problem. Ignoring these types of signs could become a huge regret. Early intervention and treatment can make all the difference regarding teens and drug use.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child is Using Drugs

Communication is vital if you suspect your child is using drugs. Don’t be surprised if your child does not want to talk to you at first or acts defensively. Many parents seek the help of a counselor first to steer them in the right direction because these conversations can become delicate.

As you approach your child about their suspected drug use, keep these communication tips in mind:

Look for Ways to Start the Conversation About Teen Treatment Centers in Iowa

Starting the conversation with your child about potential drug use can be one of the hardest parts. A conversation starter can be asking how things are going at school and then mentioning that you’ve heard other parents talk about kids experimenting with drugs. You can ask if their friends were talking about it at all as well.

You can also check in about stress and your child’s overall well-being. It’s also a good idea to ask how things are going and tell them you’re there for them as a trusted adult if they are stressed.

Some parents also start a conversation by asking, “If someone offered you something, what would you say?” This can be a way of asking if something is going on without directly asking the question.

Be Open and Non-judgmental

You want your child to feel comfortable talking to you about what’s happening and whether they are using drugs. For this to happen, you need to create a non-judgmental zone. Your child needs to feel like they can open up to you without getting lectured.3

Try to stay as calm as possible and avoid overreacting. This means trying not to raise your voice. This will only turn your child away.

While you will be talking a lot, you also want to listen just as much. Your child needs to feel heard. There are reasons why they have started to use drugs and alcohol. It would be best if you were open to listening to them. If your child feels like they are not being heard, they won’t talk to you.

Offer Empathy and Compassion

Be empathic to your child. Your child should feel as though you understand. Even if you’re struggling with the situation, be as empathic and compassionate as possible.

Give Positive Feedback

There is a good chance that your child feels like a failure for their drug or alcohol use. Praise the positive things they have done so they know you can still see beyond what they’ve done wrong.

Seeking Professional Help at Teen Treatment Centers in Iowa

When you first suspect a problem, reaching out for help immediately is essential. Waiting for a situation to change can prove dangerous and even deadly.

Therapists, counselors, and addiction specialists can get your teen the help they need. They have the necessary experience and know how to talk to your teen about their addiction.

At Ember Recovery, our team works specifically with teens to address their unique needs and challenges. We offer treatment programs for teens to get the help that will lead them on the path to recovery.

For more information about how a teen treatment center in Iowa, like Ember Recovery, can help your teen, contact us today.