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Symptoms of Substance Abuse in Teens and Young Adults

In today’s high schools and colleges drug use is running rampant. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, recovery success is much when you catch the addiction early. Since many students at least try drugs, it becomes even more important be aware of the possibility of addiction. Although the majority of students are not addicted to drugs, it is important that parents, school employees, and teachers recognize the symptoms of drug abuse.

Who is Likely to use Drugs?

Although anyone can fall victim to drug abuse, there are certain populations and personalities that are more likely than others to abuse drugs. These are:

  • young adults – young college age adults who are into experimenting with the different drugs and life in general. Many college students try drugs and abandon them if other factors do not exists.
  • teens – teens are likely to use drugs as an escape or because of peer pressure.
  • people of above average intelligence – although no one is certain why this is, people who have a high IQ are more likely to use drugs.
  • children of addicts – whether it is the example of parents using drugs or a genetic predisposition is unclear but parents who use drugs are more likely to have children who use drugs.
  • people who suffer from mental illness – people who have an underlying mental disorder are more likely to turn to drugs for help.
  • sensitive people – people who are more sensitive than others tend to turn to drugs as a way to cope.
  • extroverts – people who are generally more outgoing than others tend to wind up with others who use drugs.

This is just a general guideline of teens and young adults who are more at risk for abusing drugs. It does not mean that these personality types are definitely going to use drugs, just that they are more likely to. According to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, people who abuse alcohol are more likely to use other drugs or have children that do.

It is important to educate teens and young adults about the dangers of drug abuse and addiction. Many students who have comprehensive education on the subject never turn to drugs as a teen or young adult. Brief interventions sometimes stop the drug problem before it becomes an actual problem.

Physical Symptoms and Signs

symptom of substance abuse

Bloodshot eyes are a common symptom of substance abuse in teens.

People using drugs exhibit physical symptoms. These symptoms are generally subtle at first but grow worse as time goes on. Some of these signs are:

  • dramatic weight loss or weight gain in a short time,
  • dilated or pin point pupils,
  • bloodshot or glassy eyes,
  • frequent nosebleeds,
  • chronic unexplained illnesses,
  • deterioration in personal grooming habits,
  • tremors,
  • slurred speech, and
  • unusual smells.

Some physical symptoms are dependent on which drug the teen or young adult is using. Although there are common symptoms, many of them fit other illnesses and issues. This is why it is important to talk to the person in question about their drug use in a nonjudgmental way.

Behavioral Symptoms and Signs

Many of the drugs available as well as just the act of taking drugs, causes behavioral changes. These changes can be simple and small or they can complete personality changes. Some of the behavioral changes of drug abuse are:

  • frequent trips to the bathroom, usually to use drugs,
  • changes in friends,
  • problems at work or school,
  • loss of a job,
  • absence from work or school,
  • changes in sleeping patterns,
  • borrowing money,
  • stealing money or things to sell,
  • unexplained changes in personality, although this also goes along with being a teen or young adult,
  • lack of motivation or lethargy,
  • unexplained paranoia,
  • strange phone calls,
  • leaving suddenly to go get something,
  • failure to attend family functions or activities they would otherwise engage in,
  • periods of hyperactivity or unusual activity, and
  • sudden mood changes or anger.
  • finding drug paraphernalia including: pipes, bottles, containers, powder, straws, syringes, and other objects common in drug use.

If the teen or young adult in your family or one of your friends exhibits any of these signs or symptoms of substance abuse, talk to them. It is important to approach them in a calm nonjudgmental way. These symptoms are not always an indicator of drug use but they are an indicator that there is a problem.

What to do if someone in Your Life Exhibits These Symptoms

Many people, parents particularly want to do something about drug use immediately. This is not always the best course of action. The first step is to talk to the person. Many people assume drug abuse where there is another problem. Another approach is to wait for further signs, many of these signs are normal for adolescents and could just be natural changes.

Take them to see a doctor who can help identify whether they are abusing drugs or if there is some other problem. Most doctors are well versed in treatment of teens and young adult drug abuse.

Find help. There are many avenues to explore when seeking help. Counselors, doctors, hospitals, and colleges all have the ability to help you decide what treatment option is best. If you or someone you know is a teen or young adult with a drug problem, there are options.

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