Adolescents and Addiction
Warnings Your Child May Be Using Substances
Drug addiction in the United States is spreading like wildfire. It is common for parents to worry about whether or not their child may have been introduced to drugs or alcohol. The signs and symptoms of addiction can vary person to person. The drug of choice is also something to consider when looking for the signs of drug use. Early addiction can be difficult to detect. Over time, however, there are behavioral patterns and habits that could be indicators that your child may be using drugs.
The first thing to consider is who your child associates themselves with, especially new friends. You should be able to get a sense of whether or not a new friend is having a positive or negative impact on your child. If you find your child's friends are hesitant, shy or reluctant and keep their distance from you, it could be a red flag. New friends could be a cause for concern especially when it comes to peer pressure. Your child may be tempted to drink or use drugs in order to "fit in." If you find your child is sacrificing normal activities that he or she once enjoyed such as sports in order to hang out with a new friend, it could be a cause for concern. Be sure to notice any odd behavioral or personality changes.
Another sign of potential drug use could be if your child starts going out without permission, breaks curfew, sneaks out or starts breaking house rules in general. Teenage rebellion and teen angst are common but it is important to take these significant changes in behavior seriously. The age factor of your child’s friends could be significant. If they are older, they may be easily capable of obtaining drugs or alcohol. It is extremely important to be aware of who your child is associating with. I highly recommend keeping open and honest communication with your child especially if you notice significant changes.
Drug or alcohol use can significantly impact your child’s grades in school. If you notice your child's grades are on the decline, it could be another sign. This is especially true if your child's grades have never been an issue. As a parent, I suggest making sure your child is doing homework and be aware of study habits. It is common for teens to struggle in school. A lack of motivation, inspiration or interest in academic achievement, however, could be a cause for concern. The most concerning indicators of potential drug use is if your child begins skipping class or fails to show up at all. Withdrawing from academic responsibilities should always be a red flag that there may be something else going on. Open communication with both your child and your child's teachers can be vital in keeping your child on the right track and drug-free.
Outside of academics, another factor to take into consideration is any diagnosis of mental health, mood or behavioral issues. Mental health issues could translate to poor, unhealthy judgement and decisions. Bullying and peer pressure can increase the risk of drug use as well. A lot of people, especially teenagers, resort to drugs and alcohol in order to self-medicate. The pressure to succeed and do well at this critical stage of life can understandably be overwhelming. Depression and addiction are commonly linked. Other mental health and mood disorders in teenagers includes anxiety, bipolar disorder and ADHD. Any form of trauma could also play a factor. It is important to pay attention to your child's mental and emotional well-being. Seek professional help if it could benefit your child. Substance abuse and mental health disorders are commonly tied together.
If you suspect your child is using drugs, refrain from potentially enabling addiction. Do not loan money or provide transportation. I cannot stress enough that the key to preventing substance abuse is keeping open communication with your child. It is important to know who he or she is associating with. Try to stay on top of your child's school work and note any lack of progression or regression. Keep an open line of communication with all adult figures in your child's life—teachers, coaches, counselors, etc.
If you find out your child is in fact using drugs or alcohol, be compassionate and understanding. Figure out exactly why your child may be resorting to substance use, as their can be a variety of factors. Try to see things from their perspective and put yourself in their shoes. Try to be neutral, not judgmental. Try not to convey emotions of anger or frustration. A calm, collective and relaxed approach is the best when it comes to talking to your child about using drugs.