Resources & Education

September 27th, 2014

Drug Abuse — It could happen to your kid too!

Painkillers kill teen pillsRecognizing the warning signs of drug abuse in teen

Did you know that teen opioid abuse is second only to marijuana in popularity? In fact, one in ten high-school students reported taking hydrocodone within the past year. In addition, most teens reported taking the same medications that had been prescribed to parents or relatives, as they were easier to get a hold of.

Because pain management has become more prescription-centric within the last ten years, younger teens and pre-teens are exposed to opioid use and abuse at earlier and earlier ages, making them more susceptible to addiction as well.

There are many warning signs that can indicate teen drug abuse or addiction, which can affect the user emotionally, physically and/or psychologically. The best way to recognize an issue with drugs or drug abuse is by having an open line of communication with your teen, and confronting potentially risky behavior before it extends beyond parental control.

Behavioral warning signs:

  • Withdrawal from favorite activities or hobbies
  • Apathy, uncaring attitude toward life or others
  • Neglecting responsibilities at school or home
  • Risky behavior, whether sober or under the influence
  • Legal trouble or negative interaction with police
  • Unexplained need for money
  • Theft of money or belongings from other family members
  • Secretive and/or suspicious behavior
  • Insistence on privacy or isolation
  • Problems with conflict in familial relationships or friendships

Physical warning signs:

  • Significantly larger or smaller pupils
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of cleanliness or personal grooming
  • Changes in appetite
  • Severe weight gain or weight loss
  • Unusual body or breath odors
  • Tremors/shaking
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination

Psycho-emotional warning signs:

  • Unexplained changes in personality
  • Severe mood swings
  • Periods of hyperactivity followed by severe depression or lethargy
  • Lack of motivation or ambition
  • Fear or paranoia

Signs of use and abuse differ depending on the drug being ingested. provides a chart including the signs specific to certain drug usage (pictured below) that can be helpful to parents, friends and loved ones concerned about a teen they believe to be using drugs.
Drug abuse warning info graphic

Recognizing and confronting teen drug abuse is an exceptionally difficult task. However, the best way to approach recognition and recovery is with a network of support and love with people who care for the user.

If you suspect your son or daughter may have a problem.  There is hope and there is help in Western New York.  With questions about drug use or abuse, contact Horizon Health Services at (716) 831-1800 about their young adult addiction program, and family counseling services.

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