Drug abuse and experimentation among youth is on the rise. With today’s younger generations there is less of a stigma against drug use and teens views on drugs are more open than ever before. The cause of this has many factors include pop culture, legalization of marijuana, and a painkiller and prescription drug epidemic. Many teens today claim they first try drugs from their own family’s medicine cabinet, opening the door for more drug use and potentially addiction.
Teens who use drugs are far more likely to develop an addiction later than life. 40% of teens claim they can easily obtain drugs, while 20% claim they can easily obtain drugs on school grounds. This is making it vital for parents to be aware of the warning signs of drug abuse. It is also vital to know how to prevent kids from getting to drugs and how to talk to them about drugs and alcohol. Educating a teen and keeping them involved in extracurricular activities is the only way to truly prevent them from experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
Isolation – Isolation is one of the first signs of drug abuse, for any age. A person often becomes detached from loved ones, hobbies, and interests. They may avoid contact, interaction, and family gatherings. Often teens will try to be at home as little as possible or try to stay in their room.
Baggy or Bloodshot Eyes – The eyes can be a true teller when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Almost all substances affect the eyes in some way. Stimulants can cause baggy eyes due to lack of sleep and exhaustion. Several substances can cause bloodshot eyes, most specifically marijuana. Pain killer drugs like oxycodone, vicodin, heroin, or codeine can cause “pinned pupils”, this is when the pupils become nearly invisible or look similar to the size of a pinhead.
Sudden Drop in School Grades/Performance – When a teen begins abusing drugs they often become disinterested in school work and lose motivation. Grades may drop and/or they may begin getting into trouble at school.
Sudden Changes in Weight – Drugs like opioids and stimulants can cause a drastic loss of weight. This is because both of these drugs suppress hunger. If a teen begins eating much less and dropping weight it is usually a sign something is wrong, whether it be drug abuse, depression, or an eating disorder.
Mood Swings – Kids who abuse drugs often begin having drastic mood swings or outbursts of anger. They may lose patience much faster than usual or become irritated quite easily.
Paraphernalia – Lastly, finding drug paraphernalia is a sure sign your kid is using drugs. Glass pipes (bowls), burnt glass tubes, burnt soda cans with holes poked in them, rolling papers, burnt spoons, small baggies, bags with powdery residue, pills, or many small balls of cotton can all be signs of drug abuse.
It is imperative to keep a locked medicine cabinet in the house. Even if you are unsure if a medication has a potential for abuse, it should be locked away. One should never let teens take medications on their own, because this is the most common time for teens to experiment with prescription drugs. Teens can easily look up on the internet if a drug has a potential to cause a ‘high’.
It is important to talk to your child about drugs and the dangers of addiction. It is important to inform them that it is far more harmful for those with a developing brain to use illicit drugs or alcohol. There is even a site for teens made by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to help educate teens and parents alike. If your child is at risk of addiction, also consider various drug detox programs to help—the first step in battling addiction.
Keeping your child busy is the best way to keep them out of trouble. Sport, clubs, and other extracurricular activities can help prevent depression or boredom, which are leading factors that cause teen drug abuse.