Early Signs of Youth Drug and Alcohol Abuse
It is always difficult when a parent suspects that their child may have a serious drug or alcohol addiction. As parents we often believe that changes in our child’s behavior are merely a result of changing hormones or just a normal part of puberty. If your child becomes withdrawn, or depressed and angry or if their sleeping and eating habits suddenly change or they are missing or skipping school and even show a loss of interest in their favorite activities according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse it could be an early sign that your child has developed a drug or alcohol problem. Other early signs of youth drug and alcohol abuse might include:
A change in peer groups
If your son or daughter suddenly starts hanging around different people or making friends with “the wrong” crowd it is often because they are looking to be accepted by a group that will not judge them if they make poor choices or use drugs or alcohol. If you have a child who doesn’t do well in school, is mouthy or disrespectful, chances are the teen is going to gravitate towards friends that won’t judge them for it but instead reward and reinforce what they are doing. They will often do illegal things out of character just to fit in such as shoplifting, vandalizing property and abusing drugs. They might start dressing differently to be more like the group or even stop caring about their appearance all together.
Decline in academic performance
Another red flag to parents to teenage drug use is if your child’s school grades drop or they are skipping and missing classes. However, some teens are smart enough to invent situations to mask this problem. Parents should sign up with their child’s school to receive notifications from teachers or other school officials if their child is skipping classes or is exhibiting poor grades.
Trouble with the law/authority figures
You may notice that your child is disrespectful and tells lies to cover their acts about where they are going and who they are with. They might show disrespect to adults and authority figures. More often than not, any attempts to correct this behavior is met with anger and viewed as a violation of their privacy. The teen might be irritable, verbally abusive, and might become violent to parents or siblings. They might even threaten to quit school or run away from home. Others may even threaten to harm themselves or commit suicide.
If I decide to find help for my child, where do I start?
Asking for help from professionals is the first important step.You can start by bringing your child to a doctor who can screen for signs of drug use and other related health conditions. You might want to ask your child’s doctor in advance if he or she is comfortable screening for drug use with standard assessment tools and making a referral to an appropriate treatment provider. If not, ask for a referral to another doctor skilled in these issues. You can also contact an addiction specialist directly. There are 3,500 board certified physicians who specialize in addiction in the United States.