How to Spot Addiction in Teens

Young male looks depressed sitting at the curb

Many parents feel as if it is their fault when their teens become addicted to drugs or alcohol. They want to do everything they can to help their child, but they also feel an enormous amount of guilt. Substance abuse therapists work to help teens during recovery and they also work with families who need help coping with the causes. While teens may be focused on moving forward one day at a time, their families are often looking back wondering if they missed the warning signs.

What Parents Should Look For If They Suspect Addiction

Parents know their children better than anyone else. Even those parents who are busy outside of the home have more collective information about their teens than peers, family friends or teachers. Spotting changes in behavior is usually the first sign that a teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Here are some other signs that counselors might share with families:

1. New Smells

Teens may try to cover up the odor of substances like marijuana with body fragrances, deodorants, and air fresheners. If they have never used these strong-smelling products before, this could be a sign to parents to start asking questions. The same goes for mouthwash, excessive gum chewing and mints. If using these things is a new habit, they may be covering up alcohol.

2. Changes in Academic Success

Rapid changes in grades, school attendance, and overall motivation are key indicators of addiction in teens. These events may be related to other factors, but they can be a sign to parents that they need to start paying more attention to their teens.

3. Less Detailed Communication

Teens who are hiding addiction may try to lie their way out of explaining where they have been, what they have been doing and who they have been with. If their explanations are vague, evasive or do not make sense, parents should take notice. Lying and avoiding topics can be a sign of addiction.

4. Changes in Social Life

While it is not uncommon for teens to abandon friends and old interests, it is important for parents to notice who and what the replacements are. If a teen begins hanging around with kids who the parent suspects are into drugs and alcohol or take up activities commonly associated with substance abuse− that is cause for alarm.

5. Money is Missing

Unfortunately, many teens turn to stealing from their parents to pay for their addictions. That does not mean that every time a dollar goes missing a parent needs to worry. But if there are other signs of addiction or sudden changes in personality, it is time to start asking questions.

6. Intuition

If a parent’s gut tells them something is off, it probably is. Most parents have used intuition to guide their parenting from the very first moment their child came into the world. When their teenager was a baby, the parent could discern between what each and every type of cry meant. They should trust what they feel and assume their child may be crying out for help for different reasons now.

If you feel drawn to helping teens and families work through the struggles of addiction, counseling might be a great fit for you. At Grand Canyon University, you will find degree programs for those just starting out like the Bachelor of Science in Counseling with an Emphasis in Addiction, Chemical Dependency and Substance Abuse and programs for those already working in the field, such as the Master of Science in Christian Counseling of Substance Use and Addictive Disorder degree and the Post-Master of Science in Counseling: Addiction Counseling Certificate.

To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences supports students who have made it their life’s work to counsel others, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.