The 5 Most Noticeable Warning Signs Indicative of Teen Substance Abuse
The 5 Most Noticeable Warning Signs Indicative of Teen Substance Abuse

The 5 Most Noticeable Warning Signs Indicative of Teen Substance Abuse

Why it's Critical for Parents to Have a Genuine Interest in Their Child's Life: Getting to Know Their Behaviors, Friends, and Passions

Due to its progressive nature, drug usage is one that can go unnoticed long after a teenager's first time using it. In extreme cases, if parents fail to pay close enough attention, a well-guarded teen can develop a full-blown addiction before they even notice any subtle, albeit gradual and significant changes in their child's behavior. 

That being said, parents would be wise to take an interest in their child's passions, activities, and even the peer groups with which they choose to spend their time.

This isn't to say mom or dad should become so involved that they begin to helicopter-parent their naturally independent teenager. As any former teen can attest, this model of overbearing parental control is likely to cause further discord between their child and parent dynamic, not to mention likely aggravating the very issues with which they tried so desperately rid from their adolescent's behavior in the process.  

Rather, a parent's attentiveness is most effective when it comes from a place of love and truly vested interest in their son or daughter's life.

As a result of developing such a dynamic bond with their child, a parent who is actively involved in their child's life is all the more able to distinguish any suspicious conduct that is out of the norm - not least of which, potential behavioral warning signs indicative of substance abuse disorders.

With that in mind, the following article was created to assist loving and concerned parents better identify potential warning signs of adolescent drug and alcohol abuse. After all, even the most attentive parent can miss a few of the following tell-tale signs of substance abuse if they aren't sure where to look for them. 

5 Most Noticeable Signs of Teen Substance Abuse  

1. Missing Money or Valuables Among Friends, Neighbors, or Family Members

One of the most conspicuous warning signs of teenage substance abuse is if valuables of those around them all of the sudden go missing. Sure, losing an earing here and there are commonplace, but when multiple sets of earrings go missing, it may be due to a pilfering teen who's without a source of income and in desperate need of quick cash to support their habitual or experimental use of harmful substances.

2. Sudden Change in Social and Peer Groups 

The tell-tale sign of a teen suddenly dropping their old friends for new, less supportive, or all-around negative influences often foreshadow negative consequences are just around the corner - especially those stemming from substance-abusing behaviors. 

While it does happen, teens who remain close with a supportive peer group from childhood are unlikely to suddenly start abusing harmful substances without the help of outside influences. Moreover, this warning sign is an easy indicator for parents who are involved in their child's life but just as easily be missed by moms and dads who aren't aware of their child's social life or habits. 

3. Isolating and Secretive Behaviors

Like most warning signs on the list, isolating oneself in their room is one that can easily be confused with regular teenage behaviors. However, if a teen's isolating behavior appears more surreptitious than moody it may very well be due to negative behaviors (especially substance abuse) they are trying to keep clandestine. 

An easy way to spot the difference between the two behaviors: if your child is exhibiting isolating behaviors in conjunction with other warning signs on this list. In other words, the more warning-sing behaviors they are exhibiting in addition to becoming secretively withdrawn, the more likely they are abusing drugs and/or alcohol. 

4. Extreme or Sudden Mood Swings: Irritability, Bouts of Depression and Anxiety

Most substance usage can be identified by their mood-changing qualities. Depressants, such as alcohol, or anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and Klonopin, are known to make teens lethargic, depressed, and easily angered (during or after usage). Whereas stimulants, such as Adderall or Ritalin, can cause severe bouts of anxiety - especially when used in high doses (which can cause users to stay up for days at a time, even rendering some of its most sleepless users into a state of total psychosis).   

Even if parents aren't able to identify a specific substance, they can look for any type of extreme and continuous mood changes in their teen's behavior to ascertain whether or not their child is (likely) abusing some kind of drug.  

5. Noticeable Drop in School Performance

Include the following: 

  • -loss of interest in extracurricular activities, failure to fulfill academic responsibilities
  • complaints from teachers and other school faculty members (principal, coach, secretary, etc. 
  • noticeable drop in attendance/often skipping classes or whole schooldays  

Family First Adolescent Services is Here to Assist Parents of Substance-Abusing Teens