Signs That Your Child Is Using Drugs
As public debates continue to cover the dangers of drug abuse and its prominence in society, it is only natural for parents to worry about the health of their children. Many kids are tempted to try an illegal (or at least illegal for their age group) substance before they even reach high school, and during this time their brain and decision-making process is not fully developed. This puts them at a greater risk for making poor choices and trying one of these substances, an action that could send their life spiraling into a cycle of addiction.
Drugs affect children and teenagers differently than adults, as their bodies are still developing, and in most cases, this can easily result in permanent harm. However, given the nature of the situation, children may be reluctant to be open with their family about their drug use. This can stem from fear of consequences, a lack of knowledge, or even embarrassment about their condition if their drug use has already developed into a dependence.
A substance is dangerous at any age, but especially during a child’s developing years. For this reason, it is critical for parents to be aware of the signs that come with addiction and know how to properly approach their child if they suspect them of substance abuse. The sooner it is acknowledged and treated, the more effective treatment will be.
Lets's Take a Look Into Why Children Abuse Drugs?
The first step to identifying when a child is using drugs is to have an understanding of the main reasons that they would begin taking a drug in the first place. While young children are unlikely to begin using drugs, it is common for teens to experiment with new substances. Their reasons for doing this can vary widely and are not always what parents might expect. In most cases though, drug usage stems from some combination of two points: feelings-manipulation and social expectations.
This category of usage covers taking the drug for pleasure purposes, which is one of the first explanations that a parent might think of for why their child is regularly using drugs. After all, many substances are known for their pleasurable highs, and the primary reason that they are abused is for recreational purposes, which require the user to take the drug in a dangerously high dosage. This is not the only reason a child might try a drug in relation to feelings though. Like some adults that abuse drugs, they could be suffering from a mental health disorder, such as depression or high anxiety, and are using the drugs to override the negative symptoms of those conditions in hopes of functioning normally. It is also possible that the child is suffering from these feelings without a disorder, but still relying on drugs as a coping mechanism.
When a child has a mental health disorder, it increases their chances of developing an addiction and ending up with what is called co-occurring disorders. Alternately referred to as Dual Diagnosis, this is when an individual is suffering from an addiction as well as at least one other mental health disorder. The multiple conditions amplify each other, making it notably more challenging for the individual to overcome either disorder.
This reason for trying a dangerous substance is frequently connected to feeling-manipulation since a child’s social situation is often the cause for their stress or anxiety, although it can exist on its own. Social expectation is a broad category, but it is used to explain any situation where a child’s drug usage is connected to external social pressures for them to do so. The common example given here is peer pressure, where a child is urged to try a drug because their friend group or people they admire and want to connect with are also doing so. This often stems from a desire to fit in and be accepted by their chosen social group.
There are other social pressures beyond peers however, and for some children these are more dangerous because they are frequently overlooked. The social pressures that these children face are usually linked to a desire to excel at an activity, such as academics or athletics. The pressure they face here does not necessarily arise from their own drive and wants, but rather conditioned ones placed upon them by societal or cultural expectations. In particular, family itself is a common driving force for this category, since in many situations, parents have higher expectations for their child than the child actually feels capable of achieving.
Consider this scenario: one set of parents might expect their oldest child to study hard to become a doctor, when in reality that child struggles with biology and has a passion for mechanical work instead. However, because of pressure from their parents (which the parents may even be creating unintentionally due to poor communication), they work hard and end up in a university as a biology major on a medical track. This becomes a disaster because they cannot keep up with the other students and are struggling to pass, so as a result they turn to amphetamines like Adderall, which are rumored “study drugs” that can improve their performance. There is no scientific support for this rumor, but out of desperation to please their family, the student begins taking the drugs anyway, eventually leading to an addiction as they continue to struggle in class.
Signs a Child is Using Drugs
Children are not always open to their parents about their drug usage, and for this reason it is important to know the signs that identify it. In many cases, the child will try to hide any physical side effects, but they may be unaware of behavioral and mental shifts, making these the easiest for a parent to spot.
Some of the behavioral signs that a parent should watch for include:
- Changing friend groups
- Neglecting responsibilities like school or work
- Losing interest in old hobbies
- Neglecting hygiene
- Getting into trouble in school or with the police
- Hoarding or hiding drug paraphernalia
- Stealing money
A few of the mental side effects to watch for include:
- Increased stress
- Mood swings (especially anger)
- Isolative tendencies
- High anxiety
In situations that a child is unable to hide the physical symptoms of their drug use, parents should be aware that the exact physical symptoms will vary depending on the type of the drug the child is using. Depressant drugs like alcohol or Xanax will generally make the child seem tired and have slower reflexes, meanwhile stimulant drugs like Adderall will make them energetic and aggressive. Depending on their method for administering the drug, parents may also be able to spot marks on their child’s skin where needles were used.
In the case of an overdose, parents should watch for symptoms such as:
- Dilated pupils
- Poor balance
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Blue lips or fingers
- Heightened body temperature
If any of these side effects appear, an overdose is occurring. It is a clear sign that the child has abused a drug and they should seek out help immediately. Even on the first occasional, an overdose can be fatal if not given early medical attention, and the longer an individual has been abusing a drug, the higher their chances of a deadly overdose will be.
Getting Help For Your Loved One
Overcoming an addiction is no easy task, and it should only be attempted with the help of medical professionals and addiction specialists. If a parent realizes that their child is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, their first action should be to sit down and talk honestly with the child. This should be carried at a time when all of the family members are calm, and the child is not currently under the influence of their chosen drug. If not handled at a moment like this, the conversation is unlikely to be productive and may only push the child farther away. When talking with the child, it is important to help them realize the harm that their actions are causing and to encourage them to seek help.
Addiction is a mental disorder, and just as an individual would seek out professional help for another mental disorder like ADHD, so too should the addict. Depending on how far the drug abuse has progressed, it will likely be necessary for the child to receive help from a rehab center in order to ensure that they are treated in a safe and supportive manner. This is crucial because if the child is addicted and has been using a particularly potent drug or been addicted for a long period of time, attempting to quit without medical supervision could be dangerous because of the powerful withdrawal symptoms that accompany missing a dose.
If you suspect yourself or a loved one of an addiction, do not wait to seek out professional aid. Brookdale Recovery is here to help, and the sooner an addiction is addressed, the easier it is to treat. No matter how far an addiction has progressed or the age of a patient, a chance at sobriety is always within reach.
Please contact our Admissions Specialists today at (855) 575-1292 to begin the treatment process.