How to Spot Teen Addiction

Counselor interacting with upset patient

Many parents feel that 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 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, teens may be covering up alcohol.

2. Changes in Academic Success

Rapid changes in grades, school attendance and overall motivation are another key indicator 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 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. Visit the website for Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences or click the Request More Information Button on this page to learn about degree programs such as the Bachelor of Science in Counseling with an Emphasis in Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse or the Master of Science in Christian Counseling of Substance Use and Addictive Disorder.

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.