5 Warning Signs of Drug Abuse In Teenagers November 14th, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News 5 Warning Signs of Drug Abuse In Teenagers

5 Warning Signs of Drug Abuse In Teenagers

signs of drug abuse in teenagers

Raising a teenager isn’t easy. Between the mood swings, changing interests, and their constant desire to distance themselves from you, it’s difficult for many parents to determine what’s normal and the signs of a bigger problem.

There’s no easy way to determine whether your teenage son or daughter is using drugs because many of the signs and symptoms resemble typical teenage behavior. Additionally, they may also be signs of underlying mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.

However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore these symptoms if your child is displaying them. If you notice your child showing several of the warning signs below, the best thing you can do is take them to a professional for an assessment.

Child drug abuse statistics

Drug and alcohol use among teenagers has become a major public health issue. While the 2015 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey reports decreasing drug use among adolescents, child drug abuse statistics in the United States are still staggering.

Below are some of the statistics that the US government and other independent surveys have reported over the past couple of years:

  • Almost 50% of high school seniors have abused a drug of some kind.
  • 68.1% of high school seniors don’t view smoking marijuana as harmful.
  • Marijuana and alcohol are the most commonly abused drugs among teenagers.5 Warning Signs of Drug Abuse in Teenagers
  • By 8th grade, 15% of children have used marijuana.
  • 7.6% of teenagers use the prescription drug Adderall.
  • 64% of teenagers said they’ve used prescription painkillers they got from a friend or family member.
  • 28% of teenagers know at least one person who has tried ecstasy.
  • Nearly 44% of high school students know a classmate who sells drugs.

5 signs of drug abuse in teenagers

If you’re worried that your son or daughter may be abusing drugs, here are five warning signs to look out for:

Changes in behavior

According to an article published in Innovations In Clinical Neuroscience, “one of the earliest warning signs that predicts teenage drug use is changes in behavior and mannerism.” Some of these changes include a sudden change of friends, withdrawal from family and friends, isolation, lack of communication, or disinterest in activities they previously enjoyed.

You may also notice your child is stealing money or other items from around the house. If this is unusual for them, it’s likely a sign that they need money to buy more drugs.

Mood changes

Some teenagers who abuse drugs may become more irrational or dramatic in their actions. You may notice your child becoming more irritable, verbally abusive, or even violent with your or other children in the household. Additionally, your child may begin to threaten to drop out of school, run away from home, or destroy property.

On the flip side, depression, mood instability, and apathy are also warning signs of potential drug abuse and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you notice your child withdrawing from others and spending more time alone, it could be the sign of a larger substance use problem.

Changes in personality

A red flag for drug abuse among teenagers is when they begin to show apathy, poor morale, low productivity, a lack of self-control, aggressive behavior, or poor interactions with family members, friends, classmates, and teachers. Another sign is failing tests and quizzes, bad grades in classes, and poor performance or behavior in the classroom.

While it’s easy to write off changes in personality as normal teenage behavior, it’s important not to ignore it as it’s often one of the earliest signs of a substance abuse disorder.

Physical changes

Drug use takes a physical toll on the body, and some of the physical signs of drug abuse include:

  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Widely dilated pupils.
  • Sudden weight loss (or weight gain).
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Frequent nosebleeds.
  • Shakes or tremors.
  • Red, flushed cheeks.
  • Bruises or other unexplained injuries.
  • Drowsiness or fatigue.

Possession of drug paraphernalia

This is the most definitive sign that your child is abusing drugs. The possession of items such as weight scales, smoking pipes, butane torches, bongs, cigarette lighters, small porcelain bowls, hypodermic needles, balloons, and vials are all indicative of drug use.

Getting help for your child

It’s not easy to recognize the warning signs of drug abuse in teenagers, and it’s even harder to admit to yourself that your child may have a substance abuse problem. However, instead of sweeping it under the rug and hoping it goes away, the best thing you can do for your child is to seek help from a trained professional.

At The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we offer a variety of treatment programs for both teenagers and families. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your child overcome their substance abuse use and live a happy, fulfilling life in sobriety.


Ali, S., Mouton, C. P., Jabeen, S., Ofoemezie, E. K., Bailey, R. K., Shahid, M., & Zeng, Q. (2011). Early Detection of Illicit Drug Use in Teenagers. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(12), 24–28.

Drug Facts: High School and Youth Trends. (2016, June). Retrieved November 14, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends

Is Your Teen Using? Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse – Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.drugfree.org/resources/is-your-teen-using-signs-and-symptoms-of-substance-abuse/

Teen Drug And Alcohol Abuse Facts And Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://www.teendrugrehabs.com/facts-and-stats/

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.