Signs of Teen Substance Abuse

This week is National Drug Alcohol Facts Week.

It is a fact that teenagers experience life much different than adults because the circuity of their brain is wired differently than adults. During adolescent the teen brain is being restructured, which affects how they receive and process information. During adolescence information is processed through the limbic system instead of the prefrontal cortex like in adults. The limbic system includes the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain.

Needless to say, processing information through the body’s limbic system, which is responsible for memory, learning, and emotion, results in a different behavior than processing information thorough the controlled, measured and higher level thinking that occurs in the prefrontal cortex.

Because of this, pleasurable feelings are very pleasurable and negative feelings can be so negative that they become intensively overpowering and teens may start to look for ways to numb the pain or to feel better.

This can result in their experimentation with alcohol and drugs because they mistakenly think it will make them feel better. Since the teen brain is underdeveloped,  the use of drugs and alcohol  has a higher chance of leading to abuse and addiction.

The following are physical, psychological and behavior signs parents can look for if they believe their teen may be abusing substances.

  • Physical Signs
    1. Changes in eating habits and sleeping patterns
    2. Impaired coordination or slurred speech
    3. Bloodshot eyes or pinpoint pupils
    4. Nose bleeds or bruises they will not discuss with you
    5. Dental problems, weight gain or weigh loss
  • Psychological Signs
    1. Unexplained changed in personality
    2. Lack of motivation or unable to focus
    3. Withdrawal from normal activities
    4. Appearing paranoid or anxious
    5. Anger outburst or laughing for no reason
  • Behavioral Signs
    1. Change in peers, hangouts, or activities
    2. Skipping school or drop in academic performance
    3. Withdrawing from family and activities they once enjoyed
    4. Preoccupation with drugs  or drug related music, movies
    5. Becoming secretive, demanding more privacy, locking their bedroom doors