Warning Signs of Substance Use and How to Address Substance Use with Your Child

By Kendall Small, Licensed Addictions Counselor, Florence Crittenton

There are many concerns with raising children in a technology heavy era, one concern being potential substance use. Symptoms of substance use can be difficult to recognize due to the commonality of behavior that are associated with being a teen such as mood swings, sleeping more than normal, and breaking rules. When your child has specific interests and hobbies it may be easier to spot any shifts in behavior. It is important to remember there are many factors that can cause a substance use disorder. Substance use in adolescence does not guarantee on-going addiction problems in adulthood.

The following are potential warning signs of substance use:

Many factors can attribute to a substance use disorder such as genetic factors, environmental factors or exposure to substance use, and age of first use. The age of first use can indicate the likelihood of developing an addiction. The younger a child is the more likely they are to develop a substance use disorder. Research has shown that brains are not fully developed till sometime in a person’s twenties, making the brain especially susceptible to chemicals altering brain wiring.

Exposure to substances from family and/or friends can “normalize” substance use allowing children to believe this is a normal part of life. Children are often trying to find their place in the world and how they fit. If your child is spending significant time with others who abuse substances the likelihood that they will abuse substances increases.

Parents and caregivers can help prevent substance use and abuse by being willing to discuss the topic and potential consequences that may arise from using substances. When discussing substance use, a parent may be asked about their substance use history. It can be helpful to disclose with children how substances have impacted your life or people you know. It is important to set clear boundaries and expectations with children and enforce consequences when necessary.  If you are concerned about your child abusing substances seek professional help from a licensed addiction counselor, doctor, clinical therapist, or other community resources.

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