How to Spot Substance Abuse or Addiction Issues in Teenagers

  • Use your nose.
  • Have a real, face-to-face conversation when your child comes home from going out with friends. If he’s been drinking or smoking, the smell will be on his breath, his clothes and his hair.
  • Look into his eyes.
  • Pay attention to his eyes, which will be red and heavy-eyed, with constricted pupils if they have been using marijuana. Pupils will be dilated and they may have trouble concentrating if they have been drinking. In addition, a red, flushed face and cheeks may also be a sign of alcohol consumption.
  • Observe their behavior.
  • How do they behave after a night out with friends? Are they especially loud and obnoxious, or are they laughing hysterically over nothing? Are they unusually clumsy to the point of bumping into furniture and walls, tripping over their own feet and knocking things over? Are they moody, withdrawn, unusually tired, and staring blankly into the night? Do they seem dizzy and stumble in the bathroom? These are all signs that they may have been drinking or using marijuana or other substances.
  • Find their spaces.
  • The boundaries you set with your child are not limited to the front door or bedroom. If you have a concern, it’s important to find out what’s going on. However, be prepared to explain the reasons for a search, whether or not they tell you beforehand. You can let them know that it is a concern for your health and safety. Common places to hide vapors, alcohol, drugs or paraphernalia include.
  • Interior drawers, under or among other items
  • In boxes or small cases: think jewelry, makeup or pencil cases, or headphone cases
  • Under a bed or other furniture
  • In a plant, buried in the ground
  • Between or in books
  • Under a loose floorboard
  • Inside containers of over-the-counter medications (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)
  • Inside empty candy bags like M & Ms or Skittles
  • Inside fake soda cans or other fake containers designed to conceal
  • Don’t overlook your child’s cell phone or other digital devices. Do you recognize their frequent contacts? Do recent messages or social media posts hint at drug use or contradict what they have told you?
  • If the search turns up evidence of drug use, be prepared for the conversation ahead and don’t be deterred by the invasion of privacy argument. Respect your decision to search and the boundaries you have set.
  • If you discover that your child is unlikely to have been drinking or using other substances, it may be a good time to find out if there is another explanation for any changes in his or her appearance or behavior that needs to be addressed.

 

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