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What Does Teen Substance Abuse Look Like?

Recovery Centers of America

Authored by Recovery Centers of America

Turn on just about any television show or movie and odds are you’ll see some type of drug or alcohol abuse.

This is problematic for many reasons, but especially for younger adults and teens. Because our youth often turns to the media for guidance and ways to “fit in,” they may perceive drug or alcohol abuse as careless, cool, and unbothered.

Sadly, drug and alcohol abuse on TV, in movies, in ads, and talked about in music is a horrifying and misrepresented conversation. This messaging is even more dangerous for younger crowds because their brains are still developing.

With this being said, steps must be taken in order to change the conversation with our youth. To do this, we must illustrate that teen drug abuse is not as glamorous as it is made to appear and substance abuse treatment programs are a positive action to take.

So, the first step is education, of your teenagers and yourself. Below is a list of drugs frequently used by teenagers and some of the indicators that they may be using that type of drug:

Common Drugs Used By Teens

  • Tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, etc.) Yellowish coloration around fingers and teeth, a tobacco smell and some irritability.
  • Cold medications (Benadryl, Sudafed, etc.) Drowsiness, and a decrease or an increase to their heart rate.
  • Cannabinoids (marijuana, hashish, etc.) Red eyes, increased hunger, tiredness, lethargy, lack of motivation, paranoia, happiness.
  • Inhalants (gasoline, ammonia, etc.) Runny nose, confusion, cloudiness, strange odors.
  • Depressants (barbiturates, benzodiazepines, etc.) Bumping into things or dropping things, decrease to heart rate and/or blood pressure, dizziness, sleepiness, lowered inhibitions.
  • Narcotics (heroin, oxycodone, etc.) Uncommon amount of happiness or euphoria, tiredness, slowed breathing, higher tolerance for pain.
  • Stimulants (cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) Increase of heart rate and/or blood pressure, an uncommon amount of happiness or euphoria, irritability, paranoia, less need for sleep.
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, mushrooms, etc.) Paranoia, confused or blurred perceptions, insomnia.
  • Dissociative anesthetics (phencyclidine/PCP, ketamine, etc.) Increase of either heart rate or blood pressure, nausea or vomiting, irritability, aggressiveness, memory loss.
  • Club drugs (ecstasy) A fever without sweating, eating a lot of sweets like lollipops or other hard candies, excessive amounts of happiness and love, euphoria.

How to Start the Conversation

It’s never easy to talk to your teen about suspected drug use, but it’s important to start the conversation now. Ask gentle, but straightforward questions, such as:

  • Has anyone offered you drugs or alcohol recently?
  • Have you been using drugs or alcohol?
  • You don’t seem yourself lately. Is there anything you want to tell me?

Of course, your teen may not tell you the truth. It may take more than one conversation, or you may need some backup. Recovery Centers of America has Interventionists who can help you get your teen into treatment. We also have Treatment Advocates standing by waiting to answer any questions or concerns you may have about treatment.

At Recovery Centers of America, we recognize the major role that our patient’s family plays in recovery. That being said, family support is associated with increased success in treatment and lasting recovery, and as a result, RCA strongly encourages and supports family involvement and healing. So, RCA staff will brief our patient’s community on what to expect, what substance abuse treatment programs their loved one will be receiving and what avenues are available for the loved ones to begin engaging in treatment themselves.

Finally, if you want more information about how to help the teen drug abuse problem, contact RCA today. You can reach us at any time by calling 1-800-RECOVERY.

Authored by

Recovery Centers of America

Recovery Centers of America



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