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Signs your Teen is Abusing Drugs

Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and growth for a young person. There are countless challenges and lessons a teen must face. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a teenager is pretty much par for the course in America.

Every teen is different and will be drawn to different experiences during their adolescence. There are many types of changes that can occur and a parent should be aware of when it comes to drug abuse and your teenager.

Personality Changes

Drug abuse will affect many aspects of a young person’s life, especially because it is an essential time for the development of one’s brain. Some examples of personality changes that may manifest in a teenager abusing drugs may include the following:

  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Withdrawn
  • Depressed
  • Agitated
  • Uncooperative
  • Emotionally unstable
  • Hostile
  • Uncommunicative
  • Hyperactive
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Deceitful
  • Elated
  • Anxious
  • Secretive

It is not uncommon for any combination of the above personality changes to occur as a direct result or side effect of the particular type of drug or drugs a teen is abusing.

Behavioral Changes

Depending on the type of drug a teen is abusing, various behavioral changes may occur. Some of the behavioral changes to be aware of can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Locks doors
  • Irregular eating habits (eats excessive amounts or does not eat at all)
  • Random laughing fits
  • Disappears for extended periods of time
  • Lacks coordination
  • Financial difficulties
  • Attempts to cover up breath with mints and/ or gum
  • Reckless and dangerous behaviors (i.e. driving while intoxicated)
  • Uses eye drops to reduce eye reddening
  • Breaks curfew
  • Shift in sleeping habits (i.e. periods of sleeplessness, followed by extended periods of sleep).
  • Failure to honor previously made commitments
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyed hobbies or sports
  • Social isolation, or only spending time with other teens who also abuse drugs

Every teenager is different, and each teen that abuses drugs will react in a somewhat nuanced way. The behavioral changes that can occur may be long lasting, or fleeting.

Physical Changes

The physical changes that occur as a result of drug abuse will vary from teen to teen. Some of the physical changes that may happen, regardless of the specific type of substance abused can include any of the following examples:

  • Poor hygiene practices
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Lethargic movements
  • Nosebleeds
  • Frequent sickness
  • Skin abrasions
  • Sores around the mouth
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Bruises
  • Sweatiness
  • Runny nose
  • Constantly tired
  • Blackened finger tips from burns (occurring from smoking joints)
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight fluctuations

The type of drugs abused, the length of time a teen abuses the drug, a teen’s personal health history, and the potency of the drug abused will all weigh into the physical changes that may occur.

While experimenting with drugs and alcohol is normal for a teen, abusing drugs and alcohol can result in a myriad of short and long-term consequences. The most important tip for parents is to keep an open line of communication with your teenager. Creating an emotionally safe place for your teen to open up about their experiences can provide a parent a window into their world. Even if the teenager is not entirely forthcoming, establishing and maintaining an open line of communication can provide significant knowledge about your teenager’s life. If there is any concern that your child is abusing drugs or alcohol, it is best to err on the side of caution and get more information.  

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact an individual for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at

Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769.