Beauty Center

Substance Abuse in Teenagers: 7 Signs Parents Need to Watch For

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Unfortunately, most parents don’t realize that their child is developing a drug or alcohol problem because it’s often hard to tell the difference between normal teenage behaviors and signs of addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 20% of 8th graders have used drugs like cannabis, cocaine, and opioids, and over 36% of 12th graders!

Here’s what you need to know about recognizing signs of teen substance abuse.

Changes in mood

Mood changes are a common sign of substance abuse. If your teen’s mood suddenly changes and you notice that they’re more irritable or angry than usual, this could be a sign of substance abuse.

The same goes if they suddenly become more withdrawn or depressed than they were before. For example, if your son was always high-spirited and outgoing but suddenly starts having trouble making friends at school, he may be using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety.

Isolation from friends and family

If your teenager starts to isolate themselves from friends and family, it could be a sign that they’re abusing substances.

If your teen has been spending less time with their friends and family lately, it’s possible that they are isolating themselves because of the consequences of their substance abuse.

If your teen is isolating themselves from you or another parent in the household, that’s also a red flag. Substance abusers often feel guilty about lying to their loved ones, so they spend less time around them out of shame or fear that they’ll be caught in the act of lying. Check out this address if you think your teen needs help.

Disinterest in activities that were once enjoyable

Though it’s normal for teens to have fickle interests, a sudden change in interest is a sign that something is wrong.

For example, your child previously loved playing video games or reading comic books but suddenly shows no interest in those activities. The same goes for hobbies like drawing or photography: if your teen’s creativity is tanking and they’re not interested in their pastimes anymore, this could be an early indicator of substance abuse.

Similarly, reluctance to engage in activities that were once enjoyed can be another warning sign. If your son or daughter has always been enthused about playing sports with friends but suddenly refuses to go out on Saturday mornings because he/she “has better things to do,” this could indicate substance abuse—and you should get concerned right away!

Lastly, a lack of motivation could also be a red flag; feeling lethargic all the time while lacking a healthy enthusiasm for schoolwork or extracurriculars may mean that something serious is happening behind closed doors at home (or maybe even around town).

Declining performance in school

Declining performance in school is one of the most common signs that your teen may be struggling with a substance abuse problem. This can take the form of lower grades, more absences from school, and less motivation to study or do homework.

If you notice your child’s grades are dropping significantly and don’t seem to be improving, this could be a sign that they’re using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis.

Another indication that something may be wrong is if your teenager starts showing symptoms of anxiety or depression (or both). These conditions often go together with substance use disorders.

If your child has been acting moody for an extended period of time without an obvious cause (like grief), it could mean they’re hiding something important—like their addiction!


Rebellious behavior is one of the more common signs that a teenager is struggling with substance abuse. You might notice your child acting out or being disrespectful to you, their friends, or teachers.

When there’s a problem, parents often assume that it’s just a phase and that their child will grow out of it. But if this attitude persists for more than six months without any other issues, it could be a sign of more serious problems going on in your teen’s life.

Physical signs of drug use

Physical signs of drug use

  • Changes in appetite. A teenager who is using drugs may experience a loss of appetite or overeating, which can be accompanied by weight loss or gain, respectively.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns. If your teen has been sleeping more than usual, especially if they’re also experiencing fatigue and fatigue-related symptoms like headaches or irritability, this could indicate that they’ve been using drugs.
  • Changes in hygiene. A teenager who doesn’t care about their appearance anymore—for example, failing to shower regularly or take care of their personal grooming habits—is another sign that they might be abusing substances like marijuana and alcohol.
  • Changes in appearance. If you notice that your teenager has lost weight over the course of a few weeks without any other explanation (like working out), it’s possible that they’re using drugs like cocaine or methamphetamines.

Problems with coordination, concentration, and memory

Is your teen suddenly and unusually clumsy? If your child is having difficult