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4 Signs of Drug Use in Teens You Need to Know

By Kristen Gasnick
Changes in mood, social behavior, and physical appearance can all be signs of drug use in teens.

Drug use among adolescents can result in a variety of social, emotional, and physical changes. Sudden changes in who your teen spends time with, as well as alterations in their personality, personal interests, and physical appearance can all be potential indicators of a substance abuse problem. Read on to find out more about four important signs of drug use in teens.

1. Drug use among teens can negatively impact social relationships.

According to Mayo Clinic, drug use can often lead to a change in friends among teens, which may occur suddenly. Teens who have begun to use drugs may begin associating with a new social circle that parents do not know or do not approve of. 

In addition to a change in friend group, it is also common for teens who use drugs to withdraw from regular socialization with family members, including avoiding regular family bonding, routines, and activities.Teens may spend long periods of time alone, skip family dinners, and limit communication with parents and siblings.

Fortunately, your teen’s desire to connect to peers can also be redirected to enhance addiction treatment, as positive teen peer relationships can be integrated into a recovery plan. 

“Group therapy and group approaches to treatment, including 12-step programs, can be helpful to capitalize on peer-support, to normalize the situation, and provide a sense of community to sustain more adaptive behaviors,” Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

2.Teens using drugs may abandon their usual interests.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens who use drugs may demonstrate apathy or a lack of interest in their typical hobbies and activities. It’s common for teens who use drugs to withdraw from both social situations and their usual individual interests, as drug use and addiction can consume much of their time and attention.

3. Drug use among teens can cause mood and behavioral changes.

One of the main signs of drug use in teens is a change in mood and behavior. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a teen developing a substance use problem may become very tired, depressed, irritable, or violent without any other known reason. 

Adolescents engaging in drug use may also experience a decline in school performance, or begin skipping classes entirely. Longstanding relationships with friends and family members may also deteriorate.

Many drug treatment programs integrate counseling and therapy in order to address these issues. “If their use is life threatening, a residential treatment program or rehabilitation program that can accommodate a long-term stay will be most effective to ensure long-term change,” Romanoff says. “If the teen has more moderate use or if substance use is less harmful, outpatient individual psychotherapy would be indicated.”

4. Teen drug use can result in a variety of physical changes.

Physical signs of drug use in teens may include bloodshot eyes, dilated or pinpoint pupils, and a running nose. Teens who use drugs may also neglect their personal hygiene, especially dental care, and suddenly gain or lose weight. According to American Addiction Centers, repeated skin picking and scratching can also result as a symptom of withdrawal from certain drugs like amphetamines. 

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