How to Recognize Signs of Teen Drug Abuse

Teen Heroin Abuse: How to Recognize the Signs

Virtually all serious drug abuse problems begin during the teen years and, for those at risk, exposure to opiates prescribed for pain increases the chances for opiate abuse later in life. The risk for abuse is even greater when teens 14 and younger receive these medications for pain.

Parents should always be in charge of storing and dispensing all prescriptions for controlled medications such as opiates or stimulants for attention problems. The risk of misusing these drugs during adolescence is high, especially when youth are in charge of taking these medications themselves.

Prescription opioid and heroin use is an existing problem for families everywhere and parents need to be vigilant for signs that their children may be using drugs. Here are some clues:

Behavioral changes.
• Being unusually clumsy, stumbling, or showing lack of coordination
• Hostility or anger
• Decreased motivation
• Loud or obnoxious behavior
• Being deceitful or secretive
• Acting uncharacteristically isolated or withdrawn
• Demanding more privacy, locking doors, avoiding eye contact or sneaking around

School or work changes.
• Truancy or loss of interest in schoolwork
• A drop in grades
• Failure to fulfill responsibilities at work or school

Personal appearance changes.
• An unusually messy, careless appearance
• Red, flushed cheeks or face
• Poor hygiene
• Burns or soot on fingers or lips

If you think your child might be using drugs, you are not alone in your struggles. Equipping yourself with information to get your child the help he or she needs is the first step toward healing and a Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor (LICDC) has the training and experience needed to assess the level of drug use and design a personalized treatment plan. Nationwide Children’s Hospital can assess a teen if the family has concerns about opiate or heroin addiction – to reach us, call 614-355-8614.

Steven C. Matson, MD
Steven C. Matson, MD, is interim chief of the Section of Adolescent Health at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is the director of Opiate Addiction Clinic at Nationwide Children's Hospital and also is the Medical Director of the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center. He is board certified in pediatrics, adolescent medicine and addiction medicine. Dr. Matson is an active member of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. His clinical interests include treatment of opiate addiction in adolescents, pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, health care of incarcerated youth, substance abuse, and evaluation and treatment of mental health problems.

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