For those who are parents of a teenager, those formative years bring tremendous growth–and it can bring tremendous challenges. For the young person, navigating the physical, mental and social changes during this period of growth can be fraught with formidable obstacles and indecision. Perhaps the most formidable of those obstacles is the advent of peer pressure.
Whether it is experienced at school, various social situation or through social media, the peer pressure to use drugs can be overwhelming–and it can be seen as a form of relief or escape from the pressures of school, friendships and home life. Because a teenager’s body and brain is still in the developmental stage, drug use can impair physical, mental and psychological growth and those impairments can have long-lasting effects into adulthood.
As a parent, it is important to understand and acknowledge the potential signs that accompany drug use in your teenager. Knowing these signs and adopting a proactive approach when those signs become apparent can ensure the best outcomes for your teenager. The following is a list of twelve signs your teenager is using drugs or may be using drugs.
Use of Incense and Excessive Perfumes and Deodorizers
No matter what the substance that is being used, these substances often give out unmistakable odors or aromas. In order to cover up the smell of smoke or other odors associated with drug use, your teen may be burning incense, using excessive amount of cologne or perfumes or may be spraying their room with Febreeze, Lysol or other forms of deodorizers to cover up their activity. This is another major sign that your teenager is using drugs.
Use of Mints and Mouthwash
Not only do substances give off particular scents, they can also be strongly detected on your teenager’s breath–especially if they have been drinking alcohol. In cases where teens are drinking alcohol or are using other substances which can be smelled on their breath, they may be using breath mints or they may be frequency gargling with mouthwash to mask the smell.
Use of Eye Drops
Certain drugs like marijuana and heroin, for example, can give the user bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils. In an attempt to cover up their use of these drugs, teenagers may have eye drops regularly in their possession.
Missing Money from Your Purse or Wallet
One of the most tell-tale signs that your teenager is using drugs is missing money or even credit cards from your wallet or purse. Whether or not your teenager is employed, obtaining drugs can cost a substantial amount of money. If a teen does not have the funds, the first place they often look is in the bedroom, a wallet or a purse.
Changes in Eating Habits
If your teenager is using drugs, it can cause significant changes in their appearance. One of the biggest signs that your teenager is using drugs is noticeable and significant weight loss over a relatively short period of time. This is especially true if your teenager is using stimulant drugs that impairs their appetite.
With increased drug use, you may notice items in your teen’s bedroom or on their person that seem out of place and found in significant quantities. If you notice certain items in your child’s room such as baggies, foil, rolling papers, empty bottles or pipes, it can be one of the signs your teenager is using drugs.
The teen years are marked by an increased feeling of independence and rebellion. While this is normal behavior to a certain degree, If your teenager is hiding activities or is being extremely defensive about where they are going and who they are hanging around with, that could be an indication of drug use and activity.
Their Room Becomes “Off Limits”
Oftentimes if teenagers are using drugs and/or alcohol at home they may put a lock on their door or may have secret hiding spots for their stash. They may also be spending more time alone in their room.
Increased Legal Trouble
If your child is starting to run into trouble with law enforcement or is being arrested for crimes such as shoplifting, theft, and breaking curfew, those can be strong indications that drug use could be occurring.
What Do I Do If My Teenager is Using Drugs?
If you notice signs that your teenager is using drugs, it is very important to think before you act. Before you talk to your teen about your concerns, there are a few things that you must keep in mind. First and foremost, you don’t want panic or overreact. The worst thing to do is to fly off the handle and lose control. It is important to be as calm as you can possibly be and try to understand why your child is taking drugs and how much of a problem it is.
Secondly, it is important not to blame yourself for your teen’s situation. It is completely normal to feel that you may have failed your child or begin to beat yourself up, but this is not a healthy time to focus your energy and emotions in a destructive way on your parenting. It is beneficial to talk to other parents who had undergone similar experiences with their own children as well as an addiction professional who is well-versed in drug abuse issues in teenagers and young adults.
When it is time to talk to your teen, pick a place that is safe and comfortable. Instead of taking a confrontational approach, try asking open-ended questions and listen fully to what your teen has to say. It is very important to avoid labelling your child as a “failure” because that may further erode the lines of communication. While it may seem difficult to do, try to find ways to empathize with your teen and give them feedback. While it may not seem so, your child needs to hear that you are not abandoning them and are willing to help them through this difficult period.
Having a game plan is crucial in helping your teen overcome substance abuse. While you hope that you child will be receptive to your concern and offer of help, your child can get angry, defensive and may completely shut down and walk away from you. In the event that occurs, seeking professional help and seeking out appropriate treatment options need to be part of your overall game plan. Whatever the challenge, you have to be prepared, practical and above all ready to act.