The teenage years are often a phase of life where people seek new experiences, test boundaries, and sometimes partake in risky and potentially harmful behavior. As a result, many teens choose to participate in substances like drugs, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals, all of which are addictive and lead to substance abuse disorders. Substance abuse is a common fear among parents of teens due to the inherent risk of taking illicit substances and the fact that this issue is always apparent and easy to spot. Also, the potential for severe harm to your teen’s health and the fact that a teen who abuses substances is also more likely to make poor decisions and commit crimes, putting their future at risk. Here are some suggestions and help for teen substance abuse. Our experts are here to provide resources and residential treatment centers for teens in trouble.
Help for Teen Substance Abuse: Common Drugs That Teens Use
To spot the warning signs of drug and substance use in teens, you must first know what to look out for; to do this, you must be familiar with common substances teens abuse. Here are some common substances used by teens:
- Ecstasy/ MDMA (molly)
- Heroin/ Opioids
- Crystal Meth/ Amphetamines
- Psilocybin Mushrooms (Magic mushrooms)
There are many more substances that teens abuse, and if teens seek a way to get high, they will usually manage to do so, even without access to the above substances. For example, a magic marker, some liquid paper, or a nitrous oxide canister (also called whippets) can also be used by teens as substances to abuse.
The Warning Signs
Taking substances causes specific reactions in your body that are difficult or impossible to conceal. So, if you are aware of the physical signs of substance use, you can spot it early and take action to prevent it from becoming a severe issue for your teen. Here are some physical signs of substance use:
If you suspect your teen could be taking substances, look directly into their eyes, paying close attention to the pupils. If your teen’s pupils are more prominent than expected or significantly smaller than expected, it indicates substance use. MDMA, cocaine, and cannabis can dilate your teen’s pupils, making them larger. In contrast, other drugs like meth can cause them to shrink. Psychedelic drugs like mushrooms and LSD will dilate pupils too.
Also, alcohol, if taken in excess, will harm your teen’s motor skills, meaning their eyes could move and struggle to focus.
Hands and Feet
If your teen moves their feet or hands slowly, it’s a sign of opioid, alcohol, or psychedelic drug use. Whereas if your teen’s feet or hands are restless and moving quickly or constantly, it’s a sign of stimulant substance abuse.
While Coffee is a stimulant that can trigger this effect, it is often more pronounced when the source is an illicit stimulant like MDMA, cocaine, or meth.
Much like the eyes, the mouth is a giveaway of substance abuse that you should watch out for. If your teen is clenching their jaw or moving it back and forward, it’s a sign of stimulant use. Also, strange movements of the lips, like biting or pulling them up and down, are another sign.
Also, an overly relaxed mouth is a sign of substance use. If your teen’s mouth is too open, they may drool, slur their speech, or speak at a slowed-down pace. Typically, this is a sign of opioid, alcohol, or cannabis use.
Substances have complex interactions in the human body that often cause harm. One of the most common side effects of drug use is changes in body temperature, causing either chills or sweats. How a substance affects the human body can vary, so one drug might cause one person to be cold and another to heat up too much.
While the weather or illness can cause chills or sweats, you need to look out for excessive sweating or chills when there is no apparent cause.
- Enthusiasm- If your teen shows more or less enthusiasm towards a particular activity, it can be a sign of substance abuse.
- Change in Attitude- If you notice a sharp change in your teen’s attitude towards school or activities they enjoy, especially a drop in interest, it’s a sign that something is wrong.
- Staying Out Late/ Not Getting Out of Bed- Teens who take substances usually don’t want their parents to know about it. As a result, they stay out later and stay in bed later to wait for the effects to wear off before running into family members.
- Extreme Emotional Outbursts- If your teen goes through a short burst of intense emotions, it can be a sign of withdrawal or abuse of substances. Typically, these outbursts will be angry or depressed, but it can be any emotion, like anxiety.
Signs of Mental Illness
Teens who engage in substance abuse often do it because of an underlying source of mental distress or illness. Many teens who suffer from depression or anxiety turn to substances as an escape or short-term relief. Substances offer short-term relief from depression, stress, or fear, but after time, they do more harm than good, exacerbating issues and putting your teen at risk of addiction.
Seeking Help for Teen Substance Abuse
Teen substance abuse is not an easy issue to address. The first thing you can do is educate your children about the risks of drug use and why people turn to substances in the first place.
If an issue with substance abuse still arises, you need to talk to your teen honestly, not berate them about their decisions. This will allow your teen to be honest with you about their substance use and provide a healthy environment where you can guide them toward better life decisions.
You should consult trustworthy online resources like Help Your Teen Now, where you can find guidance on what to do and how to address substance abuse.
Lastly, you need to seek professional help. Teen substance abuse almost always indicates a deeper underlying issue that will require medical and psychological assistance.
Also, some substances, particularly alcohol and Xanax, require medical intervention to manage the withdrawals, as they can be fatal if a reduction in use happens too quickly.
Suppose your teen is partaking in high-risk substance use or showing signs of addiction. In that case, your teen will need to spend time at a facility like a residential treatment center to help get back on their feet and learn the coping mechanisms needed to overcome it.