Teen drug and alcohol abuse remains a significant threat to the fabric of our society. In fact, shedding light on just how pervasive teen drug abuse and underage drinking actually are, a recent survey reported that an estimated 17% of high school students are abusing drugs and alcohol during the school day. The survey also found that about 44% of high school students “know a fellow student who sells drugs at their school.”

Think about that for a second.

Where we have come to expect that our children are off at school preparing for the future that awaits them, almost one in five is taking the time to start down a path of dependency and addiction and a little over two in five are enabling them. You can’t watch your kids every second of every day; however you should be on the lookout for a few signs that might help reduce the risks of drug and alcohol abuse in teenagers.

Signs of Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Looking for signs of teenage substance abuse may not be how you idealized your relationship with your child, but is nevertheless important in ensuring that your teen stays on the right track. Here are a few hints that may point to troubles with substance abuse:

  • Changes in appearance: considering that a child’s teenage years are marked by a high importance placed on clothing and overall physical appearance, any sudden deterioration/dishevelment may be a sign of trouble.
  • A change in social circles: if lifelong friends are suddenly replaced, it may point to the adoption of friends who more closely align with your child’s newfound substance abuse.
  • Sharp drop-offs in school performance
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping habits: varying drugs – from stimulants to depressants – affect physiological patterns in different ways.
  • A sudden shift in your child’s personality: this may involve his or her becoming angry, aggressive, depressed, confrontational, and any other such trait that causes a deep divide in the relationship you share.

We know what you’re thinking: “They’re teenagers! That’s what teenagers do!” That brings us to our most important piece of advice: talk to your children. Yes, these need not necessarily be signs of teenage substance abuse, but refusing to discuss them (and, in many cases, even refusing to acknowledge them) may lead to a host of other troubles. In the time that you do share with your teen, take the time to notice changes in behavior, and if any change does become evident, make an effort to discuss it. Maybe you’ll find that nothing (beyond raging hormones) is wrong. Maybe you’ll find that effective teen addiction treatment is needed. Either way, you’ll come to better understand your teen, which is priceless in its own right.