Common Warning Signs of Teen Prescription Drug Use

Published On: June 19, 2017|Categories: Addiction, Adolescents|
Struggling Teenager

According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 90 percent of adults who are addicted to prescription drugs started using drugs in middle school or high school. With legally prescribed opiates becoming increasingly common in homes across the country, teens now have more access than ever to prescription drugs that they can steal and use recreationally.

Teen prescription drug abuse

Teenagers may use pills to overcome the discomfort and insecurity that often comes with adolescence. They might see their friends using them and decide to try prescription drugs for themselves. Prescription pills are more likely to be rationalized as a “safe” alternative compared to other drugs because they come from healthcare professionals. However, a teen taking any kind of prescription medicine can overdose or experience other negative side effects.

No parent likes to consider the possibility of their child using drugs, but denial is dangerous. If you’ve noticed abnormal changes in your teen’s personality, behavior or habits, it’s crucial for the wellbeing of your child to not ignore the signs. You know your child best, and if you have reason to believe that your child is using drugs, you have the power to help them.

Signs of teen drug use

According to Psychology Today, common warning signs of prescription drug abuse in teens include:

Severe mood swings

Teens commonly experience mood swings, but if their emotions range more widely from one end of the spectrum to the other, seem to come about more suddenly or are more aggressive and abusive than usual, the mood swing may be the result of drug use.

Family history of substance abuse

Children who have a history of substance abuse in their family tree experience a higher risk of addiction than those who don’t. Plus, those who grow up in a household where drug abuse is present are more at risk of developing an addiction themselves than those children who are not exposed at a young age.

Extreme change in sleep habits

If it’s extremely difficult to wake your teen up, or if they are pale, cold or have trouble breathing while asleep, they may be be experiencing severe physical side effects of drug abuse. Additionally, insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping for excessive periods of time) may be additional signs.

Physical indications

Drug use can take a physical toll on an adolescent and present itself through a number of signs including:

  • Weight loss;
  • Pale skin;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Dizziness or unsteady walking;
  • Nausea, vomiting or constipation.

If your teen complains of any of these symptoms, or you notice them in addition to other drug abuse signs, it may be an indicator of prescription drug use.


By relying on prescription drugs as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, your teen may lose the ability to handle negative emotions appropriately and turn to self-harm when they’re unable to use drugs.

Loss of pleasure in activities

Teens who are using prescription drugs may focus more on chasing the pleasure of a high than the activities they used to enjoy or commit their time to regularly. They may spend more time with people who enable or encourage drug use and less time on normal, everyday activities, including homework, extracurricular sports and work.

Treatment for teen drug abuse

If you have reason to suspect drug use, reach out to your child in a calm and compassionate manner, and do your best to start a dialogue on the dangers of prescription drug abuse. These conversations should take place when your teen is sober, so you can both address the issue at hand with a level head. Encourage your teen to tell you why they’ve started to use drugs, so you can work together to overcome the stressors they’re struggling with.

Most importantly, don’t be ashamed to reach out to a professional for help. Even the best parent may not be an expert in teen addiction. Outpatient, intensive outpatient and even residential care is available especially for teens struggling with addiction. Consult with a Pyramid Healthcare admissions expert today to determine which level of care is best for your teen, and where they can receive help closest to home.

Call our offices for additional support or treatment options anytime at 888-694-9996.

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