5 Signs of Teenage Substance Abuse

Is your teen doing drugs? What are the warning signs your teenager might be addicted to drugs? Whether it’s vaping, smoking marijuana or taking pills – more and more young people are self-medicating to ease stress, depression and anxiety. Substance abuse can also include teen drinking.


Reality is, some (if not most) teens will experiment with drugs or drinking. Many more are starting with vaping today. There are the typical teen years where we will experience defiance, rebellion and even mood swings with disrespect – however today it’s very concerning when substance use is involved.

Substance abuse can impact the brain’s ability to function in the short term as well as prevent proper growth and development in the long term.

Intervening early—before high school—is critical. The data suggest that patterns of substance abuse become worse in the high school years. Individuals who begin using alcohol or tobacco when they are very young are more likely to abuse them later in life, when it becomes much more difficult to quit.

5 Early signs of teenage substance use

1. Changing peer groups. Is your teen hanging out with a new group of friends? Maybe ones that you don’t approve of.  Have they abandoned their old friends?

2. Loss of interest in hobbies. Has your teen quit their favorite sport or activity? Dropped out of a club they used to enjoy?

3. Sleeping more than usual. Have their sleeping patterns changed? Sleeping more than usual or are they having difficulty sleeping?

4. Quick to anger, rage, despondent. Are their mood swings more than a typical teenager? Have they become explosive? Destructive in your home? Breaking house rules. Have they intentionally breaking your curfews, rules – no longer doing chores, rude, defiant attitude?

5. Physical appearance is diminishing. Do you notice weight loss, bloodshot eyes or watery eyes, frequent nose bleeds, do they have the shakes or even tremors?

It’s never too early to start talking about substance abuse prevention. Casual drug use (recreational) can turn into excessive use or drug addiction and cause accidents, legal trouble and health problems. The conversations you have today can help your teen make healthy choices in the future.

If you suspect your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, have a conversation — now.  Avoid lectures they will only lead to your teen shutting-down. Instead, listen to your teen’s issues and concerns (why are they using drugs or alcohol). Assure your teen that he or she can be honest with you and you are there to help them, not judge them.

If your teen is involved in significant substance use, contact a doctor, counselor or other mental health provider for help. Teen drug addiction is serious and typically cannot be treated alone.

Also read:

Why Therapeutic Boarding Schools Are Effective

Goals of Therapeutic Boarding Schools


Have you exhausted your local resources and your teen is still abusing drugs or alcohol? Are they refusing therapy or you’ve had them in a short-term program that didn’t work? Learn more about the benefits of residential treatment and quality places to send troubled teens for help. Contact us for a free consultation.


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Many parents are at their wit’s end with the challenges of raising teenagers. If you are considering residential therapy, contact us for a free consultation.

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