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3 Ways to Know If Your Teen is At Risk for Addiction

Thinking about your child having an addiction is brutal. Thanks to their hormones and pressures from school, mood swings are common in teenagers. High school can be one of the most brilliant and stressful experiences. Learn how to identify the signs that your child is struggling with addiction or if they’re exhibiting common symptoms of teenage stress.

Signs of Substance Use

The signs can be easy to miss in teenagers, especially in the early stages of substance use. It’s important to know what you’re looking for to spot the signs of your child using substances. The spectrum of substance abuse is a slippery slope that ranges from experimenting with a substance to problematic use to addiction.

Physical symptoms include nosebleeds, bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils, out-of-the-ordinary sleep patterns and rapid weight loss. Skipping showers is also common in substance use, and so is forgetting to brush their teeth.

Socially, teens can be shady about their whereabouts to see what they can get away with. Depending on the circumstances, they can be evasive in hanging with crowds they know they shouldn’t be around. Explore where your child is going and what they need money for by questioning them. Ask who their new friends are and invite them over to feel them out. Knowing who your child is associating with can be a key factor in whether you should worry or not.

Trust that they are being honest until they give you a reason to worry. Expressing concern is acceptable, but accusations can lead to defensiveness and secrecy. Accusatory questions can make your child feel like you don’t trust them. Ask them directly if you should be concerned. If your child has nothing to hide, you’ll likely be able to discern this from your line of questioning and the response they elicit. If their moods change more than usual and you notice increased anxiety or irritability, there might be cause for concern. Paranoia and depression can also be signs of substance abuse.

Battling Stigma

The stigma of substance abuse is slowly diminishing, yet it still exists. Addiction is a complex brain disorder with behavioral components, not a moral flaw. This makes it challenging for some to reach out about their battles with addiction because they are afraid of being judged and shamed. Addicts are perceived as weak and selfish. Addiction is viewed as a personality flaw rather than a disease. Your child shouldn’t fear being defined by their mistakes.

They should feel empowered to recognize that they have an addictive personality and seek proper guidance and support to help them rid themselves of the chronic disease of addiction. Ensure that your child knows that you don’t share in this regressive way of thinking. You should want your child and anyone suffering from addiction to want to better themselves by seeking treatment and promoting sobriety for others.

The stigma surrounding substance abuse causes people to refrain from seeking treatment, but it also triggers some addicts to continue to use. Factors like genetics and environment can play a vital role in addiction. Healthcare providers should be educated on treating people suffering from substance abuse when patients act crazy because of whatever drug they are on. Drugs have such a negative impact on our brains and our bodies.

Research and share stories with your child about what substances can cause a person to do. The stigma surrounding addiction should be instilled in your child’s brain as a cautionary tale to provide insight into how difficult it can be to seek treatment for substance abuse. This should scare your child away from experimenting with drugs. However, if it doesn’t dissuade them, stigma should be shared to encourage your child to allow you to assist them in getting the help they need.

Preventative Measures

Thre are strategies you can try to prevent substance abuse from becoming an issue in your child. Ensure you follow through when you start informing children of their actions’ consequences. If you don’t start disciplining your child early and consistently, they will walk all over you. Set clear boundaries with expectations and repercussions. When you’re upset or suspect negative behavior, ask questions without becoming accusatory. Leave emotion out of it if you can.

Ensure you educate your child on drugs and the harmful effects on your body. Keep prescription drugs up so they won’t tempt your child to try them. You never know what kind of experimental peer pressure they are under with their friends. Be supportive. Teach them about friends and how to resist peer pressure. Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. Have curfews that you and your child both agree are reasonable.

Be a good role model, and don’t overindulge in drugs or alcohol. Teens are paying attention to you. They’re watching your every move. Tread cautiously. Instill responsibilities in your child that can prevent addiction and help them make better decisions in life.


Build a foundation of trust between you and your child so that they know they can come to you about anything. When your child is struggling, they might be in denial or not want to feel shame from their addiction. When your child feels close enough to bring matters to your attention without fear of judgment, you could be their saving grace.

Jeff Campbell