Health News Articles

Is it Drug Use or Adolescent Angst?

May 1, 2013

Drug-Use-web-imageAdolescents are prone to mood swings, behavioral changes and testing the limits of established rules—whether that’s a curfew or a speed limit—which in turn tries their parents’ patience. And for many teens, this is a typical part of growing up. But what are typical teenage behaviors are also common signs of drug abuse, making it a challenge for parents to tell between the two. 

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry*, on average, adolescents who use drugs started at the age of 12 or 13. Warning signs for drug use in adolescents may be indicated by mood swings, apathy and isolation, or anger and aggression. Sound familiar? Changes in friends, poor performance in school, or poor interaction with family may also indicate drug use. Physical indications of drug use can include weight loss, dilated or bloodshot eyes, rapid or slurred speech, and neglected personal hygiene. 

How is a parent supposed to know what to do? 

“It sounds simplistic, but the key is to stay connected with your children, and share family time,” says Neal Schofield, MD , board certified in psychiatry and addiction psychiatry, and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Princeton House Behavioral Health (PHBH). “If you have a strong relationship, you will notice if there is a change you can’t account for and will be able to talk to your child about what’s bothering them. If they shut down, speak with another person who has insight into their life, such as a teacher or a sports coach. If red flags remain, then it’s time to seek professional help.” 

If drug use is a problem, professional care can help your child recover. PHBH offers after-school and day treatment programs in North Brunswick, Moorestown, and Hamilton, as well as an inpatient program in Princeton. All programs are designed to treat adolescents with substance-abuse problems as well as co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues. These programs emphasize family involvement and the importance of open communication, notes Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADA, Director of Addiction Services at PHBH. 

Click here for more information on adolescent services at Princeton House Behavioral Health or call 800.242.2550 for inpatient admissions or 888.437.1610 for outpatient admissions.

*”Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs,” AACAP 2011,

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