The teenage years—incredibly confusing, emotional, and difficult—are a tenuous bridge between childhood and adulthood. They can be volatile, as hormones surge and change, as well as incredibly uncomfortable, as bodies morph and reform. A young teenager's brain is transforming as well, reinforcing the patterns that it will use throughout adulthood. The desire for teens to fit in among peers, coupled with brains that are not yet capable of making correct judgements, all leave the door to drug use wide open. It's imperative that parents pay close attention, learn to recognize the signs of substance abuse, and have a plan to intervene if necessary.
The most powerful clues that your teenager may be using drugs are sudden shifts in behavior patterns. One of the earliest and most telling indicators is a sudden change of friend group that can't be easily explained. Your adolescent child may start suddenly hanging out with kids that you don't know or ignoring cherished friends that they've had since childhood. It could be simply that your child is making new friends, but it could also indicate a need to "fit in" with kids that are using drugs. Pay close attention.
Substance-abusing teens may also withdraw or pull away from family obligations and activities, preferring to be left alone in their room. The secretive nature of drugs requires time alone to hide their use, and many drugs cause personality changes in teenagers, making them want to be less social. Teenagers may also react angrily or unpredictably when confronted about their behavior change, so be prepared for that possibility. Of course, if drug paraphernalia is found in their room or among their belongings, that's a tell-tale sign.
When confronting your teenager about suspected drug use, it's best to be direct but supportive. Try to pick a place that is private and lacking as many distractions as possible. It's also helpful to try to pick a place where they can't or won't be quick to slam a door to lock you out. Try the family room, or even sitting at the kitchen table.
Be mindful of your body language. You may be nervous, but if you cross your arms or appear too stiff, it indicates that you are rigid and aren't listening. Try to remain as relaxed as possible, look your teen in the eye, and speak slowly and clearly.
Try to also remind yourself that listening is as important as asking the question. Yes, you want to know if they are using drugs, but often if you truly listen, their body language and what they don't say will tell you as much as what they do say.
Because a teenager's brain is not yet fully formed, and because adolescence comes with all sorts of other hormone and body changes, if you're suspect your teenager is using drugs, it's vital to choose a treatment program geared specifically towards an adolescent's specific needs. These programs will offer therapy and treatment options geared towards this tumultuous time and will give your teen the best shot at getting clean and staying on the path to recovery.
There are multiple resources at your fingertips to help you choose the perfect program. Reach out today. Your child's future is bright, and it's up to you to ensure that he or she lives to realize their full potential.
We have addiction treatment specialists available 24/7, ready to help you find the right treatment choice that meets your financial ability.