4 Early Signs of Addiction in Teens, by Morningside Recovery

depressed teenager

Overall drug use among teenagers is on the rise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 50% of high-school seniors have tried illicit substances. Such statistics can be enough to strike fear into a parent's heart, but if you know what to look for, you should be able to spot some of the early warning signs of addiction in your teen.

1. Changes in Your Teenager's Physical Appearance

  • Look in their eyes: Are they bloodshot? Are the pupils dilated or constricted? One of the first telltale signs that someone is smoking marijuana, for instance, is bloodshot eyes. Bloodshot eyes can also occur as a result of a lack of sleep, which may indicate that your teen has been using stimulants. Pinpoint pupils, on the other hand, are a sign of opiate use and will occur when drugs like heroin, oxycontin, or Vicodin are being abused. Dilated pupils can be a sign of hallucinogen or stimulant abuse.

  • How's their health? Changes in appetite, weight, sleeping habits, and hygiene can be signs of substance abuse. (They can also be signs of other health issues, though, so be careful about jumping to conclusions.) A decrease in appetite, weight, and time spent sleeping can be signs of stimulant use, such as methamphetamines or cocaine. Stimulants generally suppress appetite, resulting in weight loss, and can cause someone to be fidgety and have a hard time sleeping. Drugs like opiates, on the other hand, are central nervous system depressants and can cause feelings of tiredness or sedation.

young adults doing group therapy

2. A Decline in Scholastic Performance

One of the criteria for substance abuse according to the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home. Some of the more common signs of this include:

  • Skipping classes.

  • Getting into trouble (fighting, suspensions, arrests, placed on probation, etc.) can also be signs of substance abuse, particularly if your child has never been in trouble before.

  • A decline in grades.

3. Extracurricular Changes

One of the common reasons that teens turn to drugs can be peer pressure and the desire to fit in. Get to know your child’s friends and the kinds of things they enjoy doing, and keep an eye out for:

  • A loss of interest in hobbies or activities that he or she once enjoyed

  • Changes in friends or peer groups

teen drinking alchol and taking pills

4. Behavioral Changes

Consider how your teenager acts at home. Additional signs that he may be getting into drugs include:

  • Isolation from others

  • Demanding more privacy

  • Frequent mood swings

  • A drastic change in appearance

  • Acting angry and/or depressed

If you have noticed any of these things in your child, the best thing you can do is to have a talk about what you have noticed. Encourage an open discussion about drugs, and make sure that your words come from a place of love, care, and concern rather than ridicule, persecution, and punishment. Right now, your primary concern is to find out what is going on and, if necessary, to get your child help.

About the Author

Morningside Recovery is a world-class recovery facility dedicated to providing the excellent care for individuals who are chemically dependent or suffering from co-occurring disorders. Visit their website to learn more about Morningside Recovery's mental illness, addiction, or other treatment options.