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When You Should Be Concerned About Teen Experimentation With Drugs

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By April 19, 2019
teen experimentation

Did you know that by the time they reach 12th grade, around half of US teens have misused illicit drugs at least once? If your teen has been experimenting with drugs, it doesn’t mean that they’re a bad kid.

Teen experimentation is common, but it can lead to addiction problems later in life. There’s a chance that it’s a one-off event, but it could also be a cause for concern.

If you’re worried about your teen experimenting with drugs, here are a few things you should look out for.

If Addiction Runs in the Family

Some people are genetically predisposed to addiction and addictive behaviors. If your family has a history of addiction, this could be a cause for concern.

If your teen is experimenting with drugs, these biological factors might lead them to drug addiction later in life. 

Their Behavior Has Changed

Your child has always been a happy and friendly person to others, but now you’ve noticed a change. They might act out more, stay out later and become aggressive.

Some behavior changes are normal during puberty, but it could also be a sign of drug addiction. They may act secretively and hide things from you to hide a drug problem.

They might also be engaging in more risky behavior, such as having unprotected sex or engaging in violence. They might even steal money and possessions to fund their habit, so keep an eye out for these red flags.

They Hang Out with ‘Bad Kids’

Another sign that drug experimentation has gotten out of hand is when they change their whole friend group. They might be other teens or older people who have a bad reputation.

They might refuse to tell you things about their new friends or where they go with them. You may see new faces and names crop up a lot more and old friends slip away from them. 

If they have an addiction, they may be using or buying from these friends and it could lead to many other issues with addicition.

Their School Performance Goes Down

Lots of teens get bad grades occasionally and normally, it isn’t too much of a problem. But if you’ve noticed your child’s grades slip dramatically and their attendance goes way down, it could be a cause for concern.

They might have once been on track for straight As, but now they fail their assignments. There are lots of other reasons for this, but addiction to drugs could be one of them.

If They Have Experienced Loss

Studies have shown that teens who have experienced bereavement are at a heightened risk of abusing substances. If your teen has recently suffered a loss of a family member or friend, they might start using drugs.

Many people use drugs to escape from reality, and they could be using drugs to escape the pain of loss. If this has happened, make sure to get them into therapy or counseling to help them deal with it in a healthy way. 

They Have Experienced Trauma in the Past

Another reason to be concerned about experimental drug use going too far is if your teen has experienced trauma. People who have been subject to abuse or trauma in childhood are more likely to become addicted.

They may start to use drugs as a way to escape their traumatic past and forget about what happened to them. This is a slippery slope and could lead to a lot more trauma in the future.

If your child has experienced trauma in the past, make sure that they get proper psychological help. This will help them to process their experiences and move past without resorting to drugs.

They Look High A Lot

It’s one thing when you catch your kid with red eyes raiding the fridge with a case of the munchies. But it’s another thing when you notice your child is seriously high on hard drugs.

Are their pupils dilated more than normal? Do they nod out during conversations? Is their speech clumsy or slurred? Are they losing weight and is their skin getting sores on it? These could all be signs of drug addiction.

The physical signs or drug addiction are often quite noticeable, and it could be the biggest indicator of a serious problem.

They’re Under a Lot of Stress

One reason your child may turn to drug use is that they are under a lot of stress. It could be academic stress of exams, societal stress within their friend group, or stress at home. 

Whatever the reason may be, in times of stress and anxiety, teens may turn to drugs to calm down and escape. This is often an easy way to fall down the path of drug addiction. 

If you notice your child is under a lot of stress, take some time to talk to them about it. Let them know that you can help and find a productive way to deal with the issue.

Now You Know What to Look Out with Teen Experimentation

Teen experimentation with drugs is something that a lot of teenagers experience in their life. Sometimes, it’s just a phase or a one-off thing they wanted to try, but it can also lead to serious addiction problems. These are a few key things you should look out for if you suspect your teen is experimenting with drugs.

Are you worried that your child is addicted and want to get help for them? Check out our drug treatment programs for young adults to make sure your teen gets the help and support they need.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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