It’s any parent’s nightmare to discover that their teen is using an illicit substance; worse if they have become dependent on that drug. However, it’s not too late to seek help – if you are reading this, it means that you’ve made the decision to help them to recover.

Firstly, here are some facts about teen drug abuse:

  • There are many stages of drug abuse, eventually leading to difficulties in managing the responsibilities of adulthood
  • People who start using drugs at a juvenile age are at greater risk of becoming addicted than those who start in adulthood
  • Substance abuse is caused by several personal, family, genetic and social factors, rather than a singular cause
  • The way that substance abuse is treated generally depends on the level of addiction. Treatment may include: managing risk factors, education and intensive inpatient treatment, followed by outpatient counselling and support.

Common drugs abused by teenagers

Any drug which can be abused by an adult can also be abused by a teen. In addition to alcohol (the most common,) other notable categories include:

  • Tobacco (Cigarettes, cigars etc.)
  • Cannabinoids (Marijuana, Hashish, “pot,’’ “weed”)
  • Cold medications
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants (Cocaine, amphetamines, methamaphetamines)
  • Narcotics (Morphine, Heroin, Codeine, Oxycodones)
  • Club drugs

Signs your teen may be using

So how can you tell if your teen is using? The problem with identifying drug abuse among teens is that common symptoms of drug abuse are often associated with typical teen behaviour. In addition, many parents don’t like to consider their child as drug users.

While the following signs could be a result of other things, it is good to cancel out the possibility of substance abuse first.

  • Runny nose
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Loss of interest in favourite sports or activities
  • Prolonged coughing
  • Long sleeved clothing (usually to hide needle marks)
  • Sudden drop in class performance


How should you respond?

If you have correctly identified that your child is using alcohol or drugs, don’t panic. This is the time to be fully attentive and to avoid being distracted by emotion; instead, act quickly. The most important thing to know once you realise that your teen is using is that help is available.

There are large networks of support groups in local cities to help the parents of drug abusers. These educate parents and their children on how best to cope with and overcome the problem. If your child has become dependent on the substance, assess the severity and then contact a specialist.

Support rather than enable

It is important to remain as objective as possible when supporting a young person with a drug addiction. There are in-patient treatment facilities as well as out-patient programmes to suit your needs. In some cases, it may be necessary to withdraw the young person from school to commit them fully to a recovery programme.

To find out more about teen recovery programs, call our direct help line


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