No parent wants to believe their child could be using drugs or alcohol. We hear the statistics of how many teenagers are engaged in using mood altering substances, we even feel sad when the number of deaths related to drugs and teenagers are reported each year. However, many times we never stop to consider our very own child could be struggling with substance abuse or dependence. In working with adolescents that have substance abuse or dependence issues, I have been told by many parents how surprised they were to discover their child has a problem. They weren’t sure of what to look for in their teen and thought many of the behaviors they were noticing were typical adolescent behaviors.
There are signs and symptoms of substance abuse to help assist parents in determining if their child may have a drug related problem. Children who are using mood altering substances often times have a change in school performance such as a drop in grades, dropping out of extra-curricular activities, and/or being disrespectful to school faculty. Their dress, language, beliefs, music preference, and behaviors start changing along with their friends. Teenagers using drugs may start withdrawing from the family more and argue with parents especially when setting limits. Often times, adolescents using mood altering substances have sudden changes in moods and lose motivation presenting an uncaring attitude. Parents should also pay attention to smells on clothing or in the bedroom, and look for excess use of eye drops, room deodorizers, and cologne or perfume.
Parents should always keep open communication with their child. Adolescents are attempting to find themselves and are challenged to fit in with their peers. Parents need to be involved and open to the struggles their adolescent may be facing and get professional help when needed. Getting help early can assist in decreasing the chances of addiction as an adult.
Tia Parsley, LPC, LCDC