Substance Abuse and Dependency

Abuse: Using more than planned, experimenting with more dangerous chemicals, trying to set personal limits on using (not on weekdays, only drink beer not hard liquor, only smoke weed at parties) and may be preoccupied with using.

Onset of consequences for using: hangover, late to school/work, missing appointments/important things, legal involvement, family problems, personal increase in stress, school problems and financial problems.

Dependency: Loss of control, significant family conflict, increase in mental health problems (depression, anxiety), struggling to let go of using, making excuses to use, using is primary goal and interferes with social and emotional functioning.

Not My Kid Informational Handout

Not My Kid Handout

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Substance Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse is a growing problem among youth in the United States and around the world. Its effects are felt through every demographic in our country and it is crucial for parents to understand and be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms of chemical dependency and abuse.

Physical

Physical dependence on chemical substances is a difficult subject in the world of psychology and pharmaceuticals. Physical dependence occurs as the body adjusts to the intake and becomes more tolerant of the substance over time, meaning that increased levels of chemicals are needed to achieve the same results.

In addition, as the body changes to handle those chemicals, a sudden reduction in chemical intake can result in illness and other physical symptoms.

Unfortunately, physical dependence can happen even if the individual is taking prescription medications according to their doctor’s orders. Dependence is not specific to teen substance abuse, but is often a byproduct of addiction.

In its most basic form, many teens experience nausea and headaches, shaking, sweating, fatigue and more. These are signs of the body searching for chemicals to replace those that were lost.

The longer the history of teen substance abuse, and the more extreme the substances, the more severe these physical symptoms will be, sometimes culminating in seizures, vomiting and extreme dehydration that requires hospitalization.

Emotional Instability

In addition to the physical effects of substance abuse, emotional instability can also become a major problem. Teens dealing with chemical dependence often exhibit unpredictable behaviors, especially if they have gone an extended period of time between using.

While chemical substances affect all people differently, there are strong links between substance abuse and depression and rage. Depression is generally characterized by a loss of interest in activities and a withdrawal from people. This can be followed by irrational anger and outbursts when family members or even friends try to initiate conversation or express concern. Some chemicals are known to cause extreme violence in users as they release a burst of energy with each use.

Family And Social Implications

The family and social implications of substance abuse by teens can extend beyond the home life and have a long-term effect on loved ones, friendships, professional relationships and more.

While immediate family members are often on the frontlines when handling substance abuse, the reality is that substance abuse impacts all aspects of the user’s life and can result in failure to handle the stresses of everyday life and even criminal activity.

In the case of teen drug or alcohol abuse, students begin failing in school and skipping classes regularly. They may also stop coming home or run away for days at a time.

Teenagers will withdraw from friends that are not supportive of their drug or alcohol use as they fear getting into trouble or losing trust, so they may ingratiate themselves among other chemical users over time.

On weekends and during months when there is no school, teens who are struggling with addiction seek a fix in the home, stealing alcohol or other items from family members. Teens with jobs during the summer or after school may stop showing up or will fail to perform tasks as directed, often leading to disciplinary action by their managers.