It is one of a parent’s worst fears, the possibility that their child has started using alcohol or drugs. This article will help you learn how to spot signs of drug use in teens, how to talk to your teen about drugs, and where to turn if you need help.

Common signs of teen substance abuse

Statistics show that 90% of people with a substance abuse problem began before age 18.
Determining whether the signs you may be seeing In your teen are symptoms of substance abuse or are typical teen behaviors or mental health issues like depression or anxiety can be challenging. Remember, your teen is going through a lot during this period of their life. Some of the behaviors on the following list could be common to your teen, so keep in mind you are looking for changes in their behaviors.

• Depression
• Less motivated/Loss of interest in school
• Uncommunicative/Slurred speech
• Hostile/Angry
• Deceitful/Secretive/Makes endless excuses
• Hyperactive/Unusually elated
• Avoids eye contact
• Locks doors
• Goes out often/Breaks curfew or even disappears for long periods of time
• Uses chewing gum or mints to cover breath/Eye drops for reddening eyes
• Has cash flow problems/Asks for money unusually often
• Doesn’t sleep and has high energy and then sleeps too much to catch up
• Frequently red or flushed cheeks
• Burns or soot on fingers or lips
• Skin abrasions or bruises or do they wear long sleeves in warm weather to cover marks on arms
• Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
• Frequent sickness/Vomiting or seizures

If your teen has started showing similar behavior changes as listen above, you should prepare to have a conversation with them.

How to talk to your teen about drugs or alcohol

“I know mom! I know dad!”

The teen that thinks they know it all, may be surprised by what you have to say. Who better to teach your teen what they don’t know than you right? There are many things your teen may not understand about substance abuse that you as an adult do, even if they are trying to convince you that they know more. Here are three reminders that as the parent you have the upper hand.

• Teens usually lack a well-developed sense of self-awareness
• Even if they are “drug savvy” they don’t understand addiction well
• Teens don’t plan ahead and underestimate the consequences of their actions

So, remain confident when talking to your teen. You are the best person for the job!

And the sooner the better. Don’t wait to have the conversation with your teen. The longer your teen is on the road to addiction, the more damage is being done to them. Did you know that while abusing substances your teen stops maturing? Their brain is being damaged by what they are using, and their dependence on the substances becomes stronger. Not to mention the guilt and shame they feel is likely deepening which reinforces their addiction.

How to talk to your teen about drugs or alcohol

Maybe try having the conversation after they have just gotten home from hanging out with their friends and see if their behavior is different than usual. If they have been drinking or smoking, you will most likely smell it. They will probably have red, heavy lidded eyes with constricted pupils if they have been smoking marijuana and will try to avoid eye contact. Also, if they have been drinking their face and cheeks may be a red flushed color.
You may also choose to search their belongings or spaces to help you figure out what is going on. Be prepared to explain your reasons for a search though. Whether you let them know beforehand or not, they are not going to be happy, but you can tell them that you are concerned for their health and safety. And don’t forget to check their cell phone or digital devices and social media. Are their recent messages or posts hinting toward drug use?

Teen substance abuse prevention

After the search and conversation with your teen you may be left believing they are abusing substances, or maybe you have confirmed your suspicions. Or maybe you are left more confused than when you started. Whatever the outcome you are not alone. There are all sorts of resources for teen substance abuse prevention and resources to help them overcome their struggles with substance abuse. has trained and caring specialists that are available immediately and ready to listen to your challenges, setbacks, obstacles, and difficult emotions that go along with a child’s substance use or addiction. They will help support you and direct you toward the appropriate resources for your teen. has programs that help by teaching student’s decision making for safe and healthy living. Their phone number is (800) 223-3273 if you prefer to call them directly.

Additionally, Oregon Trail Recovery welcomes any member of the community to their Family Group every Friday evening from 7 to 8 pm. Located at 10600 SE McLoughlin Blvd in Milwaukie, this group is facilitated by caring and trained staff who are familiar with the struggles families go through when substance abuse is present. Current and past clients who have struggled with substance abuse and their family members who attend are provided with a safe and loving atmosphere to express themselves and work on future reconciliation. We would like to encourage you either by yourself, or with your teen to join us, even if you and your teen choose not to share. Being able to listen to the experiences that other families are going through can be extremely encouraging for both you and your teen. And feel free to ask questions to our staff and clients of Oregon Trail Recovery. We believe in the therapeutic value of one addict helping another.

If you or your teen would like to contact Oregon Trail Recovery with any questions you may have, please give us a call at (855) 770-0577 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. We are here to help you and your family!