Parents might know that teens tend to experiment with drugs and alcohol, but they might also believe that it’s something that occurs late in adolescence. The truth is that teenage drug use can begin quite early in life. For example, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that the average age of first marijuana use is 14, and alcohol use can start prior to age 12.
Drugs and the Teen Brain
The teen brain is crucial to development. Indeed, the brain is what allows a teen to grow up. Hence, the teen brain receives, processes, and integrates information. This ongoing process allows a teen to adapt to an ever-changing world and learn from experience. In order to make this happen, the brain needs to function properly. Moreover, proper brain functioning is based on the many parts working together as a team. As a result, the teen brain needs to function well. Thus, damage and impairment have to be avoided.
As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “When drugs enter the brain, they interfere with its normal processing and can eventually lead to changes in how well it works. Over time, drug use can lead to addiction, a devastating brain disease (that) causes terrible consequences” to a teen’s health and happiness.
Indeed, drugs affect the teen brain and undermine a teen’s ability to succeed. This is why the signs and symptoms of teen drug use need to be heeded.
Signs and Symptoms of Teenage Drug Use
Although all teens are different, and addiction signs in one teen might look radically different from addiction signs in another teen, experts agree that these are the warning signs parents should be on the alert for, at all times:
- A change in friends. Teens who begin to spend time with others who use drugs may be bowing to peer pressure to use drugs, too.
- A sudden need for privacy. Taking drugs, and stashing away the signs of drug use, takes time and privacy. A once open teen who now needs hours alone may be spending those hours using drugs.
- Increased need for money, or stealing. Drugs can be expensive.
- Messy, careless personal appearance. Teens on a rollercoaster of drug use may not take the time to groom themselves.
- Secretive phone calls or text messages that seem to be in code. Teens often talk to one another about drugs in this way.
- Lack of interest in hobbies the teen once enjoyed.
- Drop in grades, or failure to show up at school at all.