Substance abuse in adolescents can hinder physical and social development, increase the risk of mental health disorders, and lead to dangerous or reckless behaviors such as engaging in unprotected sexual activity, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Studies report that “the earlier teens start using substances, the greater their chances of continuing to use substances and developing substance use problems later in life.

When teens begin drinking at an early age, they increase the chance of becoming addicted to or continuing to abuse substances later in life.” It is critical to monitor your child for signs of substance use disorder (SUD) in early adolescence to prevent long term struggles with addiction and co-occurring psychological and physical disorders.

What Are the Behavioral Signs?

In addition to clear indications of substance involvement such as drug paraphernalia or containers of alcohol, altered behavioral patterns in your child may also suggest that they are engaging in dangerous activity. Stanford Children’s Health lists several common signs of SUD including self-isolation and emotional distancing, diminished interest in self-care, lying, hostility, and alterations in the friend group. The Partnership to End Addiction offers a more exhaustive list, including physical signs of substance abuse like exhaustion, frequent illness, lethargy, and vomiting.

What Should I Do If I Find My Child Abusing Drugs, Alcohol, or Prescription Medication?

The Partnership to End Addiction recommends honest conversation with your child. The sooner that the underlying causes of addiction can be addressed, the stronger the likelihood of recovery from SUD. If you find that your child is displaying signs of SUD, but is not abusing substances, then they are manifesting symptoms of a different disordered behavior that demands attention.

The American Association of Pediatricians (AAP), in conjunction with the CDC, published a guide for medical staff that outlines formal substance abuse screening and intervention. Statistics, warnings, and procedures outlined within the guide, “Substance Use Screening and Intervention Implementation Guide: No Amount of Substance Use Is Safe for Adolescents,” are also suited to the needs of parents and caregivers interested in protecting their children against SUD.

The guide recommends consulting your pediatrician for assistance in combating early SUD as “Adolescents consider physicians to be an authoritative source of information about alcohol and other drugs and are willing to discuss the issue of substance use with them, if the adolescents feel that the conversation will remain confidential.”

Alta Loma Transformational Services will walk with you as you move forward on your journey toward recovery. Our dedicated team of mental health professionals will equip you with tools to conquer life’s challenges and continue on the path to wellness. Alta Loma prioritizes a holistic approach to treatment and we will work with you to understand and manage your personal experiences with substance use disorder. To start your journey toward good mental health, call us today at (866) 457-3843 for a consultation.