How to recognize drug and alcohol abuse in teens
Many people in their teenage years try drugs and alcohol. Most often, they try the substances to fit in, to do something exciting, to seem more like an adult or because they like how it makes them feel.
Teenagers are more susceptible to drug and alcohol experimentation because of the development of their brains. During the teenage years, the brain’s pleasure centers develop faster than the decision-making parts of the brain. Simply put, teenagers are more likely to take part in riskier activities because their brains have not fully developed to understand the risks.
Unfortunately, occasional instances of using drugs and alcohol can blossom into addictions and abuse. Substance abuse can be defined as experiencing uncontrollable cravings for psychoactive substances such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
Teens who come from families with drug and alcohol problems are at an increased risk of experiencing the same issues. The risk also increases in teens who have poor relationships with their parents and with teens who experience low self-esteem and mental health issues.
What makes drug and alcohol abuse in teens so alarming is that it affects the brain during the key developmental years. The teenage years are critical years for developing a healthy brain for adulthood, and substance abuse can cause brain damage. Negative effects include memory problems, damaged connections inside the brain and missed learning opportunities.
If you are a parent or guardian who is concerned that your teen may be abusing substances, you need to know what to look for. Signs include red eyes, fatigue, poor attendance or performance in school and new friends who seem to have little interest in school or family.
If you discover an issue with your teen, the first step is to speak with them about it. Help them to understand why their habits are a problem and let them know that you still support them. Avoid having an angry reaction; this will just result in a negative response from your teen.
You also need to have your teenager see a doctor or a counselor. They can decide what the best course of action is to stop the drug and alcohol abuse. Above all, when you recognize substance abuse in your teenager, you need to take action quickly.