I'm Worried My Teen Might be Using Drugs? How Can I Find Out?
Most of us parents tend to overlook the small signs but when it becomes a common occurrence, we get racked with anxiety. Teens becoming more distant, preferring to lock themselves in their rooms, refusing to come out except to eat, seems to be preoccupied with so many things that they fail to carry out their duties and responsibilities - are these behaviors signs that your kids may be into something detrimental to their health or future?
Should You be Concerned Your Teens is Using Drugs?
Substance abuse, and not only drugs but also alcohol and tobacco, can have a profound effect in the life of teenagers. It can affect their career choices, their capacity to look for a lifelong partner, their societal duties and their life achievements.
It is a well documented fact that drug and alcohol abuse can lead to many negative outcomes for a teen, including failure at school, broken friendships, poor family relationship, physical injuries and trouble with the law.
Most drugs are illegal for people under the age of 21 in all 50 states in the United States. However, it did not stop an estimated 2.9 million teenagers that tried an illicit drug for the first time, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, conducted by SAMHSA in 2008. As a parent concerned about your child's life, you should act immediately even if it is just a bad feeling.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse?
According to Laura S. Kastner, Ph.D. in her book Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens and Teens, the later parents take action on important issues, the more difficult it will be. Therefore, parents should be making conversation even with the slightest signs of drug abuse, which can be any of the following:
- Inexplicable weight loss, characterized by periods of complete appetite loss interspersed with periodic increase in appetite.
- Inexplicable inability to sleep and being awake at unusual times, interspersed with periods of lethargy and stupor.
- Periods of extreme hyperactivity and excessive talkativeness.
- Red, bloodshot eyes
- Sudden appearance of sores due to formication, or the sensation of having insects crawling under the skin which triggers the scratch reflex, resulting in open sores known as speed bumps, meth sores or crank bugs.
- Bruxism, or the grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw.
- Inexplicable tremors, especially in the hands and feet
- Runny nose and hacking cough
- Smell of substance on breath, body or clothes.
- Needle marks on lower arm, leg or bottom of feet.
- Excessive need and demand for privacy, being unreachable by mobile phone
- Unexplained need for money, to the point of lying, manipulating or worse, stealing money or valuable items to sell.
- Change in habits at home.
- Loss of interest in family activities.
- Moodiness, irritability, nervousness, or sudden oversensitivity and resentful behavior.
- Chronic dishonesty.
- Lack of motivation to do well at school.
- Drop in school performance, failing grades, or being habitually called for detention.
- Associating with known drug users.
- In possession of drug paraphernalia or items that can be used in drug use, such as rolled tissue paper, tin foil, butane lighters, pipes, etc.
- Change in personal grooming habits.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that these behaviors could be a result of adolescent stress. If your teen shows any of these signs and symptoms, it does not automatically mean that he or she is using drugs. It is your job to investigate the issue further.
Educate your Children Regarding Dangers of Drug Abuse
Parents have a huge influence in the lives of their kids. This is why it is the parents' responsibility to not only to provide opportunities to their kids but also put the proper safeguards that will protect their teens from dangers later on. Good parenting dictates that parents should teach their kids the proper values, and in doing so lay the foundation that will make them good citizens.
So how is this done? According to Dr. Gary Hill, director of Clinical Services at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, you need make time to be with your kids and make the time you have with them really count. At dinner time, talk with them about what is right and wrong, and what constitutes good behavior and what does not.
Having these kinds of conversations on a regular basis will make the topic of value become a completely normal in your household. It fosters a positive environment which will help your kids develop into a teenager who can withstand negative societal influences. Parents who take time to educate their kids about the right values usually encounter less trouble when their kids turn into teenagers.