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Secret Signs of Teen Drug Use & How Online Therapy or Virtual IOP Can Help

Teen Drug Use and Therapy

As a parent, one of the most difficult challenges you can face is identifying the signs that your teenager may be experimenting with drugs and alcohol. While drug use can have serious consequences for teens, including addiction, poor academic performance, legal problems, and health issues, many parents may not know what to look for when it comes to recognizing the signs. These signs can be particularly challenging, especially when it comes to your own child. According to a national survey conducted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, only 14% of parents recognize that their teen might have tried marijuana, while 42% of teens surveyed reported having used it. This disparity highlights the importance of parents being more aware of the possibility of teen drug use. By becoming aware of the signs of drug use and seeking professional help when necessary, you can help your teenager overcome adversity and develop healthy coping strategies while fostering an open, honest relationship with your child. 


Secret Signs of Teen Drug Use: Eye Drops & Air Fresheners


On the surface, finding eye drops and air fresheners in your child's bedroom may seem innocent enough. Perhaps they suffer from dry eyes and want their space to smell good. On the other hand, these two things can be used to conceal drug use. Eye drops are commonly used to get rid of the red, glassy-eyed look that frequently comes after smoking pot. Likewise, air fresheners can be used to get rid of, or mask, the smell of burning drugs like cannabis, meth or any other narcotic that can be smoked. Be especially on the lookout for Gatorade bottles or water bottles stuffed with air fresheners or fabric sheets. This is a homemade device that teens can blow smoke into to diffuse the smell allowing them to smoke inside the home or their room undetected.


 Secret Signs of Teen Drug Use: Changes in Clothing and Decorations


While most adolescents experience a period of changing style and interests, it is important to pay attention to where those changes lead. An abrupt shift in the way your child dresses or decorates their room can also be a sign of drug experimentation. There are the obvious images that proclaim someone is a fan of marijuana such as t-shirts, hats and posters with pot leaves or “420” on them. Some not so obvious signs would be a sudden affinity for Bob Marley, The Grateful Dead or any band that celebrates recreational drug use - this is especially true if your child has never heard of these bands prior. Using black out curtains, burning incense, or the appearance of lighters, dropper bottles, metal cylindrical grinder boxes and glass picture frames taken off the wall are all subtle signs of drug use. Dropper bottles can be used to store liquid drug solutions such as various psychedelics and benzodiazepines. Glass picture frames are commonly used as a surface to chop and snort any kind of powder drug such as cocaine. Part of growing up is finding your tribe. If you’re experimenting with drugs, as a teenager, there is a desire to attract like-minded people — hence the new clothing and decorations. It is a walking billboard of their newfound interests.


Secret Signs of Teen Drug Use: Excessive Candy Consumption


Sweet treats and candy are enjoyed the world over. However, if you’ve noticed your child consuming far more candy or sweets than normal, or keeping large amounts of candy on them or in their room, this may be something to keep an eye on. Unfortunately even candy can be associated with drugs in a number of ways. Ecstasy is often pressed into pill shapes that resemble candy. Liquid drugs such as LSD can be dripped onto sweet-tarts and other hard candies that are then eaten to get high. With the proliferation of the cannabis industry, edible marijuana is being produced to look and taste like any number of normal sweet treats and candy. Users of opiates and opioids are known to develop a deep sweet tooth and the use of MDMA can cause a desire to clench the jaw. Lollipops, jolly ranchers and other hard candies are frequently used to alleviate this. Again, an interest in candy or sweets is not a direct indication that your child is using drugs. The trick is to consider the context. Is this new behavior? Is it adjacent to their normal demeanor and food choices?


Online Therapy and Virtual IOP


As a parent, the last thing we want to entertain is the thought of our babies experimenting with drugs. If you’ve noticed some or all of the above secret signs, it may indeed mean they have begun to try substances. We want our kids to make good choices and part of that is having a good education. This is where online therapy and virtual intensive outpatient programs can provide the information and tools your child needs to live substance-free. 


Working with a therapist online or participating in a VIOP allows a licensed, objective clinician to work with your child to illustrate the dangers of drug use and abuse, check for signs of active addiction, and help to make educated referrals for help if needed. It gives your son or daughter a safe space to open up and talk to someone other than you, the parent. It also keeps the boundaries between child and parent intact. Allowing them to have their privacy while opening up to a trusted source with expertise in treating adolescents is a win-win for everyone involved. 


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you are concerned that your son or daughter may be struggling with any kind of behavioral health issues or you’re seeing changes in their person that concerns you, addressing them directly and preventatively is the best course of action. When all is said and done and your child is grown, they’ll thank you. They will appreciate your love and concern for them and be grateful for the open and honest relationship you cultivated. Online therapists and clinicians from Stonewater’s virtual intensive outpatient program for adolescents are here to help.