12 Signs of Teen Drug Abuse & Where to Get Help If You Believe Your Child Is Abusing Drugs and/or Alcohol

11/10/2016 06:45 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2016
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Drug and alcohol abuse is a nasty epidemic and unfortunately is not just limited to adults. More and more young adults are being yanked out of school to be put into treatment centers for drug addiction. How do you know your teenager is experimenting with drugs and alcohol, or even worse, suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction? With the help of Sober College, I've compiled a list of 12 signs to watch out for in your teen when it comes to alcohol or drug addiction.

12 Signs to look for When You Believe your Child may be Struggling with Alcohol or Drug Addiction:

1. Red Eyes - The swelling or dilation of blood vessels that can flare up immediately or develop slowly over time can be a sign that your child is using Alcohol or Marijuana. Note that If it is only one eye, it's unlikely to be related to drug abuse and your child could be suffering from allergies, computer vision syndrome, conjunctivitis, an ulcer, or eye injury. If the eyes are only red for a short time, this COULD be due to alcohol or marijuana use.  Marijuana contains THC, which causes significant dilation of blood vessels on both eyes and can last for several hours. Alcohol decreases the flow of oxygen to red blood cells, which in turn causes blood vessels to cluster, sometimes resulting in red, bloodshot eyes.

2. Weight Loss - Sudden weight loss is a side effect of many types of drug abuse. Weight loss may be gradual or sudden, subtle or significant when it comes to drug abuse. Although weight loss can occur for many different reasons including loss of appetite, increased exercise, depression, or stress, it can also be related to drug use and is something parents should be aware of when it comes to their child. Weight loss can occur with the use of stimulant drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamines and/or amphetamines, which has a way of speeding up the metabolism and suppressing the appetite. Weight loss can also occur from the lifestyle of the drug abuser, as oftentimes those addicted to stimulants can refrain from eating for days during a drug binge. Weight changes can also be caused by alcohol or marijuana use as well.

3. Cuts, Sores, or Bruises. Track marks are a dead giveaway for use of injected drugs. Pay attention to your child's arms if you think they're suffering from drug abuse, especially around the inside of the elbow. Heroin use and other intravenous drug use will oftentimes show up as the darkening of veins due to toxin and scar build up, and you may also notice small red marks, as well as sores and bruises that may form clusters down the inside of the arm. Drug abusers tend to bruise more easily than non-users due to the stress that is placed on the body from drug use as well as nutritional deficiencies,  and this can be a sign that your child is using. Those who abuse meth or crack tend to frequently have sores on their face and body caused from compulsive picking, as well as burn marks on their face and hands, caused from lighting up. Note that sometimes excessive bruising, sores, and cuts can also be a sign of disease, an infection, a bleeding disorder, or inflammation of blood vessels that may have nothing to do with drug use.

4. Deterioration of Physical Appearance. Drug users often overlook hygiene and the sudden or gradual change of appearance and personal grooming habits in your child can indicate a serious problem with drugs and/or alcohol. Another giveaway is the wearing of sunglasses at odd times, as they can be worn to conceal bloodshot eyes. Long sleeved garments in the hotter months can also signal that your child may be covering bruises, sores, or cuts that may be related to drug abuse. When a child is fixated and consumed with using, often times the need to look good can completely go out the window. However, anyone who has ever known a teenager knows that oftentimes a drastic change in looks can be nothing short or abnormal.  Sometimes this can also be due to depression, insomnia or stress, unrelated from drug or alcohol use.

5. Shakes and Tremors.  Involuntary shaking of the body and most notably in the hands can be a sign that your child is suffering from drug abuse. The shaking is usually fast and around 4-12 movements per second. Tremors can affect the hands, eyelids, arms, and or heads, but rarely affect the lower body. They will most often occur when moving, trying to hold arms, hands, or head in a certain position. Tremors can also sometimes be accompanied by a shaky voice and/or head nodding. Shakes and tremors can often be caused by the use of stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. Alcohol and alcohol withdrawal can also be a cause for tremors and shakes, as well as nicotine. Not all shakes and tremors are caused by alcohol or drug use and can be a sign of Parkinson's Disease, too much caffeine, or hyperthyroidism.

6. Anger Issues. While it's normal for a teenager with hormone levels changing to become angry more easily or more often. Irrational outbursts inconsistent of the child's personality is something that should be paid attention too. If your child becomes hostile, uncooperative, or is displaying paranoid tendencies, they may be involved with drugs and/or alcohol. Aggressive and abusive responses, damaging property, and assaulting others are all signs that a larger problem may be at play. Prolonged use of cocaine and crack can often times show up as outbursts, suspiciousness, and paranoia. Meth also affects the level of the feel-good neurotransmitter- Dopamine, and when someone is coming down from meth use, he or she may have serious mood disturbances, psychotic symptoms, and/or exhibit violent behavior. Increased anger, however, is not limited to drug and alcohol abuse, and can be a sign of depression, diabetes, a brain injury, borderline personality disorder, and other anger management issues.

7. Financial Difficulties. Is your child burning through money with nothing to show for it? Being in a financial crisis, and needing money regularly, can be a common symptom of drug use. Other signs include money not being paid back when borrowed or on loans, failing to pay bills on time or at all, selling valuable personal possessions, spending less on things that were important to him or her, and going without the essentials such as food. Drugs are an expensive habit to keep up and when someone is in trouble with addiction, they are often running out of money to pay for their habit, as well as their daily lifestyle.  Heroin affects the ability to plan ahead and forgetting to pay bills on time can be a sign of heroin abuse, marijuana, and/or alcohol abuse. Pay attention to this especially if your child has always been good about paying bills on time in the past but is suddenly struggling to pay bills. Drug and alcohol abuse can be a big cause of financial difficulties, but so are many other things including gambling, compulsive shopping, bipolar disorder, and/or depression.

8. Erratic Behavior. Oftentimes teenagers act out of character, but if this is starting to happen often, especially when it comes to exhibiting risky behavior, drug abuse may be at play. Acting in extreme ways including dangerous driving, unsafe sex, criminal acts and doing things that are physically dangerous can all be symptoms of drug abuse. Cocaine, crack, and alcohol can all reduce inhibitions, and impair judgment and perception. Sexual desire can be intensified as well as feelings of euphoria and taking risks when high, but when coming down, you may notice the complete oppositive mood and behavior in your teenager. Erratic Behavior although, can also be sign of bipolar or personality disorder, Grave's Disease, and/or brain tumors.

9. Deceit. Lying may be common among a lot of kids in the teenage years as they may be pushing boundaries and/or seeking attention, but being secretive and devious can also be a sign of drug abuse. Drug abusers often start becoming secretive and deceitful and lying is often common with them as well. They may lie about what they are doing, who they are spending time with, how they are spending their money, and how they are doing in school or why they are failing classes. They may also steal from loved ones in order to support their drug habit. Amphetamines and crack actually change the brain chemistry and can result in paranoia, delusions, and even psychosis. These behaviors can often lead to deceitfulness, lying, secretive, and confused behavior. Other causes for a child becoming deceitful and secretive may be Anti-Social personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder.

10. Frequent Nosebleeds. Nosebleeds occur when blood vessels are broken in the nose. Drugs that are snorted such as cocaine, can cause frequent nosebleeds in your child. Abuse of alcohol also dilates the blood vessels and inhibits the activity of platelets, which prevents blood clotting. Note nosebleeds are more common in the winter months when cooler weather tends to dry out the nose,  and the use of aspirin can also cause frequent nosebleeds as well.

11. Loss of Motivation. Those suffering from alcohol or drug abuse often lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. Drug Abuse can cause loss of enthusiasm for activities and things once loved as focus has changed to the drug itself. A child who has stopped participating in many of their favorite sports, hobbies, and extra-curricular activities, may be in trouble with drugs and/or alcohol. Failing to completely assignments, slipping grades, skipping classes, and being chronically late can also be signs of drug abuse. MDMA has been known to cause confusion, depression, anxiety and sleep problems, which in turn can lead to a lack of motivation. Heroin, crack, cocaine, and marijuana also diminish mental functioning as well as the ability to plan and complete tasks. The ability to discern is also clouded and impaired. Other causes for loss of motivation in your child, may be hyperthyroidism, eating disorders, anemia, stress, Fibromyalgia, and insomnia, depression, and anxiety (not related to drug use).

12. Seizures.  Uncontrolled brain activity leading to physical convulsions can be a symptom of drug and/or alcohol abuse as well as blacking out, uncontrollable muscle spasms, drooling, frothing at the mouth, falling, clenching teeth, losing bowel or bladder control, and rapid or sudden eye movements. Amphetamines and stimulants such as cocaine can cause seizures, particularly when used with other drugs. Heavy drinking has also been linked to seizures in epileptics, and alcohol withdrawal has also been know to cause seizures. Other causes for seizures are disease, epilepsy, and sleep deprivation.

Some of the most popular recreational drugs used by young people are alcohol, marijuana, stimulants and opiates. Use and abuse of these drugs can cause several physical and behavioral problems as described above.

Worried your child may be experiencing a drug or alcohol problem? Contact Sober College, to get your child the immediate help he needs! Sober College has several trained professionals with experience in working with teenagers to overcome alcohol and/or drug addiction. Even if you're not sure your child is experiencing addiction, yet is exhibiting some or many of these behaviors, the specialists at Sober College can help decipher which behaviors are the typical teenager ways verse the red flags indicating there is a bigger issue at hand.

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