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Signs Your Teenager is Using Opioids

May 9, 2017

Signs your Teenager is using Opioids

Being a parent is not an easy job, and as moms and dads we have to face a whole slew of challenges our own parents could never even begin to imagine. From keeping our children safe from online predators to preventing the use of drugs, we are just starting to discover a whole new world of dangers our teenagers are exposed to on a day to day basis.

With the pressures and high expectations for performance our teens are submitted to, whether in school, within their circle of friends and even inside the home, it becomes apparent that they will require an outlet for a very large amount of pent up energy. Oftentimes, without proper guidance, this energy will be released in negative ways. This is especially true when both parents have to spend more and more time outside of their home, regardless of the reason, and their children are faced with new freedom as they are entering a phase of exploration or seeking that rebellious release. 

Drugs, especially opioids, are everywhere

Unfortunately for us, and our children, drugs are not just available at shady corners in the bad parts of town. These days, opioids, such as prescription medication, can be found everywhere, from school locker rooms to the medicine cabinet in your own home. The flow of opioid abuse from prescriptions to harder drugs generally begins fairly innocently. As more doctors medicate either the teen or parents, prescriptions enter the household through legal and well intentioned ways. These pills are often kept after their purpose is gone, either the teen can continue to use their prescription to self-medicate, or perhaps they use a prescription in the household for themselves, or to give a friend. This experimentation with prescription pills can quickly turn into a dependence, and more commonly than expected, teens can turn to a cheaper, stronger opioid such as heroin when the supply of opioids runs dry. 

Statistics published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)[1] have shown that while younger teens prefer drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, due to them being readily available almost anywhere, older teenagers favor the use of opioid pain relievers (Vicodin, fentanyl, and others)[2], all of which are easily obtained from friends (because everybody knows somebody who can get these forms of medication), family, or their own prescribing physician. Additionally, probably due to the current medical trends, oxycodone and codeine have become two of the most common opioids abused by teens, mostly because they are seen as less risky. After all, if a doctor prescribes them, they can't hurt, right?

Addressing Opioid Abuse

Spotting opioid abuse in teenagers may seem a bit daunting, given the fact that they are going through a difficult, hard to interpret, phase as it is. That moodiness that is so common in teens may just be part of a hormonal imbalance and the need for privacy (aka locking themselves up in their room) could be just a normal coping mechanism against the stresses of their daily lives, but these behaviors could also be signs of trouble. Even so, there are ways to detect whether our kids are using opioids or not, and fortunately, most of them only require good observation skills, a working knowledge of their routines and appearance, and the correct use of all our senses. In short, in most cases we just need to give them a good look to figure out if something's wrong.

The first step in finding out whether our children have been using opioids is the direct approach. See some of our other blogs about opening a line of communication with your teen to talk to them.While the worst thing that could happen is them answering "Yes", asking directly can open the door to having an honest conversation which could lead to prevention, and, at the very least, to finding out if there is anything wrong in their lives. But don't expect every teenager to be so open about something they already know is wrong, which means that even though they may deny using opioids, or any type of drug, sometimes it will become necessary to dig even further.

Signs of Opioid Addiction

Some of the most telling signs of opioid abuse are of a behavioral nature. A child who may have once been easygoing and friendly may have suddenly become withdrawn and moody for no apparent reason. It is at this point that we, as parents, must start observing our children carefully. When teenagers abuse opioids they exhibit very poignant behaviors, including the following:

  • Changes in their relationships with family or friends
  • Breaking curfews and missing appointments
  • Confusion
  • Poor concentration
  • Avoiding eye contact with parents
  • Goes out every night, even during the school week
  • Making excuses to avoid family functions and outings
  • Unexplained giggling, clumsiness and lack of coordination
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

Additionally, kids might exhibit other warning signs of opioid use, including mood and personality changes, such as the avoidance of activities that were once important, becoming sullen, withdrawn, and/or depressed. They may lose their inhibitions or become silent and uncommunicative. They may also become hostile when questioned and refuse to cooperate during conversations. Becoming deceitful or secretive can also be an indication of opioid use, especially when coupled with other signs, together with a loss of motivation and focus. The inability to step up to their responsibilities, and an inability to plan are also noticeable signs, together with a loss of interest in school or extracurricular activities, the slipping of once good grades, and complaints from teachers or employers.

Signs Your Teenager could be using opioids

As with other aspects of their life, once teenagers begin using opioids, the effect of these substances will become apparent in their physical appearance. As the problem advances into full blown addiction, a teen's hygiene will be the first area to suffer. If your child stops caring about his or her appearance (messy clothing, lack of personal hygiene, track marks or slurred speech), especially when a child has previously taken great care with how they look, you are very likely to discover the abuse of opioids is the root cause.

Finally, drug abuse, always, without exception, brings about health problems, especially with prolonged use. So, if your teen is presenting health issues such as being unusually tired, lethargic, numbness, is unable to feel pain, is slurring his or her speech, has small pupils, nausea or unexplained vomiting, presents with rashes or flushed skin, skin abrasions, unexplained localized skin infections (from the use of needles), unexplained weight loss, or depression, it might be time to get professional help for you child.

Never be afraid to ask for help from those who have specialized in opioid abuse. This is a problem that will not disappear on its own and could bring your child to an untimely and catastrophic end. Talking to our children now, before a problem arises, can prevent a potentially life threatening situation, one which we may have to carry for the rest of our lives. If you have more questions about teen Opioid abuse, give Teen Treatment Center a call today:  (844) 319-5239.

 

[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/frequently-asked-questions/what-drugs-are-most-frequently-used-by-adolescents

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids

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