Normal Teen/Adolescent Behaviors or Teenage Substance Abuse Warning Signs

Normal Teen/Adolescent Behaviors or Teenage Substance Abuse Warning Signs

Sometimes parents mistake their young adolescent and teens changes in personality and behavior for symptoms of substance use not realizing they're just part of growing up. Not only are there physical changes that take place during puberty, emotional changes are beginning to emerge at this time too.

Dramatic personality changes can begin taking place during puberty which sometimes leaves parents questioning substance use behind their child's mood swings and behaviors.

Some of the emotional and behavioral changes associated with substance use are also typical signs of puberty in adolescents. Of course there are obvious signs of substance use if drugs or drug paraphernalia is found in their room or among their personal items or if they're actually caught drinking or using drugs. It can be difficult though for most parents to determine whether substance abuse is an issue with their child because normal emotional and behavioral changes are a part of growing up.

Below are signs associated with substance use but are also common symptoms of puberty.

Pulling Away from Family - Young adolescents begin pulling away from their parents sometimes during puberty because they're becoming more independent which is very normal. Many teenagers spend more time off to themselves in their room listening to music, socializing on the internet, talking on the phone or texting their friends. Pulling away from family can also be a warning sign associated with substance use.

Changing Friends and Appearance - It's common for adolescents to start making new friends and sometimes they even start dressing differently changing their appearance and the way they're behaving. This can be a warning sign associated with substance use but is also normal behavior for young adolescents and teens.

Changes in Academic Performance - Grades commonly begin to suffer during adolescents because friendships are becoming more important. Adolescents spend more time socializing and less time studying finding it hard to focus on academic responsibilities. Changes in academic performance are also associated with substance use in adolescents.

Change in Eating and Sleep Habits - Sleep and eating habits are changing too during adolescents, while some young teens are eating more and sleeping less others especially girls are watching their weight and eating less. A lot of teens aren't getting enough sleep and are tired all of the time. Changes in eating habits and sleep are also associated with substance use.

Mood Swings and Depression - Changes in mood (mood swings) are completely normal among adolescents but can also be symptoms of substance use or other serious mental health problems. Depression is common among teens but the severity and duration are what's most important. Mood swings and depression should never be taken lightly no matter how old a person is. Paying close attention to specific areas associated with adolescent mood swings is very important according to Harvard Health.

Lying and Secretiveness - Even though parents of adolescents may find their child being more quiet than normal, wanting their privacy and not always being truthful it doesn't necessarily mean they're up to no good or experimenting with substance use. These can be warning signs of substance abuse but they are also common behaviors most adolescents go through.

Rebelliousness - Most young and older teens can be rebellious at times, testing their limits parents have put in place as far as rules and boundaries. It's normal for teens to have conflicts with their parents and siblings from time to time but can also be a sign of substance use.

Hormonal Changes - Mood swings due to hormonal changes are a normal part of growing up and teens can be happy and energetic one minute and irritable the next. Not only are hormonal changes taking place during puberty which can affect a child's personality, attitude, mood and behavior but you have to also take into consideration what's going on in other areas of their life too.

Other Problems - Sometimes problems at home, relationship problems, problems in school, their being bullied at school, stress, ADHD, adolescent depression or other mood disorders are also reasons for changes in a child's emotional and physical behavior. When an adolescent suddenly displays changes in their emotional and physical behavior this should be taken very seriously but doesn't necessarily mean substance abuse is the problem.

Parents can't ignore emotional and behavioral changes that take place in their children but it doesn't always mean they're experimenting with alcohol or drugs. Adolescence is a time where our children are making the transition from childhood to adulthood and changes in their personality are really beginning to take place. The signs listed above are commonly displayed among young adolescents and teens off and on as they're growing up and parents should always be aware of their behaviors. When a child displays several of the warning signs for a prolonged period of time though, there is a possibility they're experimenting with alcohol or drugs or that there's something serious going on in their life their parents are unaware of.

Common Drugs Abused By Adolescents and Teens Today

Tobacco, marijuana, club drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol are all substances that many young people are experimenting with today. There are many different physical and behavioral signs that parents need to be aware of that are associated with drug use. If a child displays several of them at one time this could be signs of substance use or that there are other problems taking place in their life.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child May be Using Drugs

Some parents know their child is using drugs and others aren't sure but suspect they are. provides Time To Act to help parents know what steps to take next.

Educating and Communicating with Children about Substance Abuse

It's important as parents that we start educating and communicating with children about substance abuse should start when they're young. We know it's important to talk with our kids about alcohol and drug use and how important healthy communication is between parents and their children. It's not always easy knowing how to start a conversation or knowing what to say when it comes to substance abuse. provides tips and guides so that parents and caregivers are able to talk to their children no matter what age they are about substance abuse and other important subjects.

We can't just jump to the conclusion that our child is experimenting with drugs or alcohol just because they're displaying some of the same emotional and behavioral signs of teenage substance use. Accusing our children of drug or alcohol abuse before we know for sure can do more harm than good. It's also important that we don't just ignore emotional and behavioral changes that take place with our children either. There can be problems going on in their life they're unable to talk about or emotional issues they're struggling with. No matter what the issues are behind your child's emotional and behavioral changes, they need you and your guidance, love and support.

Harvard Health
PubMed Health

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