Parenting isn’t easy. While the joys of being a parent are immense, there is an equal amount of time spent worrying about your child's safety and well-being. Part of allowing your child to mature into an adult is giving them space to explore and experience the world on their own but this doesn’t mean you have to turn a blind eye to everything either. Young adults experimenting with drugs is a tale as old as time. If you suspect your kid is trying illicit substances, it’s a good idea to stay vigilant in the event that experimentation turns into addiction. Being aware of what drug use looks like in teens is a great place to start. If you know the red flags, you are better able to be proactive in addressing any concerning situations and providing your child with the support they need.
1. Sudden Changes in Behavior
One of the most common signs that your kid might be dabbling with drugs is a sudden and drastic change in their behavior. It’s definitely normal for young adults to experience mood swings and changes in their pattern of behavior but it’s the extreme and abrupt shifts that are a red flag. Look out for unexplained aggression, irritability, apathy, withdrawal from activities or friends, and/or a decline in academic performance. These behavioral changes can be indicative of both substance abuse and mental health issues which should not be ignored.
2. Physical Signs and Symptoms
Keeping an eye on the physical changes in your child is another good way to identify potential substance use. Again, physical changes are normal during this phase of life. As kids mature, their bodies change. In this case keep an eye out for bloodshot eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, frequent nosebleeds, unexplained weight loss or gain, and changes in sleep patterns. A decline in grooming habits and personal hygiene is also a major red flag. When taken as a whole, these signs are nothing to ignore and should be addressed immediately.
3. Social Isolation and New Peer Group
Depending on the type of kid you have, (introverted vs extroverted) you may know quite well their group of friends. A lot of young adults grow up with a core group of friends. If you notice a sudden shift in your child's social circle or if they go from hanging out with a lot of friends to very few - take notice. It’s also important to keep in mind if your child starts spending time with a new group of friends that you don’t know well. Especially if they become incredibly secretive about their activities or whereabouts. In general, a withdrawal from previously enjoyed social activities, hobbies, or family interactions can be an indicator of substance abuse. When voicing your concerns with your child, it is important to approach things with a desire for open and honest communication. You want to cultivate trust and understanding, not judgment or punishment.
A noticed decline in their performance at school or the neglect of previously important responsibilities can often be a clear indication of something amiss. If your child was previously engaged in extracurricular activities, had good grades, and showed a genuine interest in their academic pursuits, a sudden lack of interest in these areas should definitely raise concerns. Keep an eye out for frequent absences, missed deadlines, and a lack of motivation towards goals they once actively pursued. The young adult years are often a time that sets the foundation for the rest of their life so it’s important to acknowledge your uneasiness about their current situation.
5. Paraphernalia and Missing Items
This fifth sign is probably the most definitive red flag on the list. If you find drug paraphernalia in your kids clothes, bags, room, or around the house that means only one thing - they’re using drugs. Paraphernalia can include rolling papers, glass pipes, unmarked pill bottles, small plastic baggies, rolled up bills, lighters, burnt spoons, needles, and powdery residue on tables and mirrors. Additionally, if you start to notice money and valuables disappearing without any explanation - there is absolutely a serious problem going on that needs to be addressed immediately. If you come across any of these signs, it's crucial to take immediate action and initiate an open and non-judgmental conversation with your child. If your child is keeping paraphernalia they are using drugs with enough frequency to warrant having it in the first place and if they are stealing to support their drug habit it may be time to consider professional help.
Recognizing and understanding the potential red flags of drug use is the first step to identifying problem behavior and responding to it in a healthy manner before it spirals out of control. By keeping an eye out for these signs, you can take proactive measures to support your child effectively. Remember, open and honest communication, along with professional help when needed, can go a long way in helping your child navigate through these challenges and lead a long, healthy life.
If you feel that professional help is warranted or just have questions and concerns you need to voice to someone who understands, give our admissions team a call today.