If your teen or loved one continues to use substances despite harmful consequences, they could be addicted. It is important to talk to a medical professional about it—their health and future could be at stake.
It can be difficult as a parent, family member or close friend to determine whether or not your teen or loved one’s substance use requires professional help. Some of the behaviors that come with problematic substance use–such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile–can also be common during adolescence or could indicate a mental health disorder. To help in this process, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has compiled a comprehensive list of warning signs of substance use. These signs include:
Behavioral changes such as changed relationships with family members or friends, frequently breaking curfew, disappearing for long periods of time, secretive phone calls, poor coordination, or frequent use of over-the-counter products to reduce eye reddening or nasal irritation
Mood and personality shifts such as emotional instability, withdrawn or depressed mood, hostility, decreased motivation, hyperactivity, deceitfulness or unusual elation
Hygiene and appearance problems such as the smell of smoke or other unusual smells on breath or clothes, poor hygiene, red/flushed cheeks or face, track marks on arms or legs (or long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks)
Health issues such as pinpoint pupils, unusually lethargic, slurred or rapid-fire speech, nosebleeds, sores/spots around the mouth, seizures or vomiting, skin abrasions
School and work concerns such absenteeism, loss of interest in extracurricular activities, failure to fulfill responsibilities, complaints from teachers or supervisors, reports of intoxication at school or work
Unusual behaviors at home and in the car such as disappearance of prescription or over-the-counter pills, missing alcohol or cigarettes, disappearance of money or valuables, unusual packages in the mail, appearance of unusual containers, wrappers, or drug apparatuses like pipes, rolling papers, or butane lighters
Are you wondering if your teen is ‘just experimenting?’ Go to the Partnership for Drug Free Kids for guidance on how and when to take action. There are also online screening tools available through the MA Substance Use Helpline website to help determine if your loved one’s substance use has become problematic.
And remember: There is no one type of person who becomes addicted.
It can happen to anyone, including individuals who grew up in loving families or in safe communities. Thanks to science, we know more than ever before about how drugs work in the brain, and we also know that addiction can be successfully treated to help young people stop using drugs and lead productive lives. Asking for help early, when you first suspect there is a problem, is important; don’t wait until a substance use disorder becomes more severe to seek help. If you think your child or loved one is addicted, there is treatment that can work. Don’t wait another minute to ask for help.