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Navigating Teen Substance Use: Signs, Symptoms, and Support

two people hug to show teen substance abuse

Teen substance use can be tricky to navigate. This is the case for parents, other family members or friends, as well as the teen themselves. In 2023, 10.9% of eighth graders, 19.8% of 10th graders, and 31.2% of 12th graders reported illicit drug use in the past year. Before senior year, more than half of students use an illegal drug and roughly two-thirds drink alcohol. This is a very confusing and frustrating time period, and understanding these struggles is important.

It is crucial to know the signs and symptoms of teen substance use, as they can vary between the individual. Learning and understanding your teen and their struggles is crucial in making the starting effort for a sober, happy life. From the teen treatment program to family counseling services, Destinations for Teens is here to help parents and teens navigate teen substance use and addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Substance Use

Teen substance use signs and symptoms can often be mistaken for normal behaviors as one’s child grows up. However, when these signs happen simultaneously and are extreme, it is important to recognize what could potentially be affecting your teen. Some signs and symptoms of teen substance use include:

  • Mood changes, including a heightened temper, irritability, or defensiveness
  • Academic struggles, which can be noted through poor attendance, low grades, and frequent disciplinary actions being taken at the school
  • New friend groups and being reluctant for their parents/family to meet their new friends
  • Finding substances, whether drugs or alcohol, in their bedroom or personal belongings (such as their bag)
  • Physical and mental changes, including memory issues, poor concentration, lack of coordination, and slurred speech

These signs and symptoms are important to catch early on in order to address your teen, initiate a conversation, and potentially catch the addiction early to begin recovery as soon as possible. When these signs are present, though, it is still important to talk with a professional to know if your teen is struggling with substance abuse. Talking with Destinations for Teens’ medical team can help you gather a full understanding of what your teen is going through.

Risk Factors for Teen Substance Use

There are also risk factors for teen substance use that can be noted. While some of these are intertwined with teen substance use signs and symptoms, more adverse behaviors often occur because of greater risk factors. These include:

  • Early aggressive behaviors
  • Broken environment
  • Undiagnosed mental health disorders
  • Peer substance use or peer rejection
  • Drug availability
  • Poverty
  • Child abuse and/or neglect

When these risk factors are prolonged, there is a greater risk of teens developing substance use issues. However, these risk factors do not always result in the development of substance use. When the disorder is present, though, it is important to take note of the teen’s family and medical history along with other risk factors to assess the development of the substance use. This is because some families have an addictive gene that gets passed down. For instance, someone may struggle with gambling in the family.

Finding Help and Treatment for Your Teen

It can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking to address those struggling with substance abuse, especially when the person is a family member. With teens, it is important to initiate a conversation about addiction and substance abuse in a caring manner and walk into the conversation prepared to understand their feelings and their experiences. For instance, having a sit-down conversation with your teen and asking about their friends, general social life, and experiences at school can be a good place to start. Approaching your teen in an aggressive, heated manner can cause the teen to retract and reject your attempts to help them.

Part of this difficult conversation is also providing information about resources that can help. When considering treatments and therapies, listening to your teen is crucial because, while some common methods of treatment work for some clients, they do not work for all. Because of this, remember that your teen is not to blame. Each client and teen has a different set of needs, and Destinations for Teens is here to help you weigh the benefits of all treatment and therapy services available. Talking with a higher-level educator at the facility can help answer your questions and concerns, not only to understand your teen’s experiences better but also to offer support to your teen throughout their journey.

How Can Destinations for Teens Help?

Destinations for Teens is there to help from the start of recovery. It is believed that teen treatment programs are necessary to give adolescents the best chance at recovery and sustainable sobriety. So, Destinations for Teens offers a number of modalities for teens in recovery. These include but are not limited to:

  • Individual and group therapy programs
  • Family therapy program
  • Expressive and exciting art therapy and magic therapy programs
  • Yoga and mindfulness programs

These are guided modalities to ensure that each client and your teen are being supported throughout the process. Because family is a crucial element of recovery, especially for teens and young adults in recovery, Destinations for Teens encourages teens and their families to be deeply involved in the recovery process. When a member of the family is struggling with addiction and/or mental health disorders, it affects the entire family unit in some way. So, having an opportunity to develop a mutual understanding, improve communication, and work to overcome issues within the unit is important for the health of your teen and the health of your family overall.

Family therapy at Destinations for Teens emphasizes the importance of family. During family therapy and counseling, family members are able to express how substance use has affected them while also serving as a listener for their teen as they discuss their struggles with addiction. Destinations for Teens understand that certain behaviors and addictions do not appear from nowhere, and the team works to help both teens and their families understand that. From there, families stay in touch with the staff, and it is important for the family to understand what their teen is learning in recovery to help encourage these same behaviors and progress at home.

Call Destinations for Teens Today

At Destinations for Teens, we understand that it is difficult to initiate a conversation with your teen about their substance use and potential addiction. Before going into that conversation, it is important to recognize and note the signs and symptoms that have affected your teen and the household. This may be academic struggles, an adverse social life, or mood and attitude problems within the house. Risk factors, such as poverty, drug availability, and aggressive behaviors, can also be noted before the conversation to try and assess the development of the addiction. Our team at Destinations for Teens is here to help parents and their children through the recovery process. To learn more about our services, call us at (866) 678-8123.