If you are the parent of a teenager, you no doubt worry about whether your teen has tried drugs or alcohol.  It is only natural that you would be concerned about protecting your child from the dangers of  substance abuse.

If you already suspect that your teenager has tried alcohol or some sort of illegal drug, you might be wondering how to find out for sure.  Unless your child comes right out and admits to drug or alcohol use, there is not really an easy way to know for sure if they are indeed experimenting with these substances.

Interestingly enough, many of the signs of substance abuse also happen to be symptoms of typical teenage adolescent behavior, as well as symptoms of some mental health issues such as depression.  This can make it more of a challenge to get to the bottom of changes that you observe in your teenager and figure out whether or not they indicate teen addiction.

Behavior Changes

If you notice behavior changes in your teenager, you should feel comfortable asking them about it.  This could start simply with a question asking if something is bothering them.  Depending on how your teen reacts coupled with the openness of your relationship; you might be able to have an open conversation about what is different in your son or daughter’s life that has caused these changes in behavior.

Some typical changes in behavior that are warning signs of substance abuse include:

  • Hiding out in their bedroom.
  • Not associating with the rest of the family.
  • Hanging out with a different group of friends.
  • Avoiding eye contact with you when having a conversation.
  • Skipping meals or suddenly eating more than usual.
  • Staying out late or not coming home at night.
  • Lying to you or becoming secretive about what they are doing or where they are going.
  • Mood swings that are unpredictable.
  • Hyperactive and full of energy.
  • Lethargic or complains of being tired all the time or sleeping more than usual.
  • Unusually quiet or uncommunicative.
  • Exuberant or unusually exited or loud.
  • Stops going to school.
  • Loses interest in activities at school such as sports, arts, or music.
  • Getting into fights at school.

As you can see from this list of potential behavioral changes that could be present in a teenager who is abusing drugs or alcohol, some of the behaviors are exact opposites of each other.  That can make it a bit challenging to recognize if what you are seeing is a warning sign of substance abuse and teen addiction.

The key is to watch for behaviors that are not normal for your teenager in particular.  Each teen will have their own set of symptoms, and while they will probably try to cover up any changes, if you are observant, you will pick up the little details that tell you something has changed.

Physical Changes

While behavioral changes might be the first thing that you notice, there can also be some changes in the appearance of your teen that are clues to substance abuse.  These can include the following:

  • A change in weight, either a loss or a gain that is otherwise unexplained.
  • A generally messy appearance that indicates they don’t care what they look like.
  • A flushed face.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Unexplained nosebleeds.
  • Sores on the body, particularly on the face or around the mouth.
  • Sores in the mouth.

Any change of appearance that you notice in your teen that is not easily explained could be a warning sign of substance abuse.  If addiction is indeed the case, you may have to look into a teen rehab and recovery program.  Of course, your child could be a teenager just being a teenager.  If there is any question in your mind, it is always best to investigate to ensure that it is not drugs or alcohol.