15 Signs of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Is your teen abusing prescription drugs to get high? Do you know the warnings signs of prescription drug abuse?

Teens must navigate a pretty complex and dangerous world out there, parents can only do so much to protect them from harm, and sometimes – good kids make bad choices.

In 2008, 15.4% of American 12th graders used prescription medications, like Vicodin or OxyContin, to get high.

Adolescence is a time of experimentation and mistakes, and learning from those mistakes to become responsible adults – but when mistakes involve drug abuse, the consequences can be tragic.  Parents need to learn the warning signs of teen prescription drug abuse, so that they’re ready to intervene at the earliest signs of a problem, before things get out of control.

Here is a list of warning signs that may indicate a problem with prescription drugs.

Warning Signs of Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

None of the following warning signs definitely indicate a drug abuse problem, but the more signs you observe, the more concerned you should feel.

1.    Missing medications – Teens abusing prescription drugs often find what they need to get high from the family medicine cabinet. Be aware of what medications you keep and in what quantities, and be concerned if pills start to go missing or if prescriptions need refilling earlier than expected. Remember also to dispose of old and no longer needed pills safely.

…be concerned if pills start to go missing or if prescriptions need
refilling earlier than expected. Remember also to dispose of old and no
longer needed pills safely.

2.    Sudden changes in friends – Teens abusing drugs often abandon long held friends for new friends who also abuse drugs.

3.    A sudden change in attitude or personality – Teens can be a bit moody at times, but a dramatic change in core personality traits merits investigation.

4.    A sudden change in appearance – Teens tend to put a great deal of thought into their appearance, and so a sudden disinterest in personal appearance or hygiene may be a warning sign of a bigger problem. Be concerned if your teen no longer seems to care about the way they look, or no longer seems to be worried about keeping clean and well presented.

5.    Poor school performance – getting high isn’t particularly conducive to academic performance and so many teens that start abusing drugs also start doing more poorly in school. A sudden drop in grades may be cause for concern.

6.    No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed – A loss of interest in previously enjoyed extracurricular activities (sports teams, clubs etc.) may indicate a problem, especially when activities are dropped but not replaced with anything other than ‘hanging out’.

7.    A sudden change in sleeping habits – Abusing prescription drugs can wreak havoc on sleep schedules. Some medications can keep teens up for days on end, ending eventually in marathon slumbers while other drugs may have your teen nodding off in the early evening. Teens can be notoriously hard to get out of bed on a weekend morning, this is normal, but be watchful for extreme changes in sleeping habits.

8.    An unexplained need for money – A drug habit gets expensive in a hurry, and so if your teen seems always short of money or seems to go through a lot of money with very little to show for it, you may want to investigate further.

9.    Theft – Teens abusing drugs will do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do to get the money they need, and this includes stealing money or valuables from the home or from family members.

10.    A sudden increased need for secrecy – Teens tend to like their privacy and time alone with their friends, but extremely secretive behavior implies a secret that needs concealment. Be concerned if your teen suddenly withdraws from family activities that were previously found enjoyable, starts spending an inordinate amount of time behind a locked bedroom door or never seems to want to come home.

11.    Physical signs of intoxication – If your teen looks high, they may well be high. Signs of prescription drug intoxication can include pinpoint pupils, drowsiness and slurred speech.

Signs of prescription drug intoxication can include pinpoint pupils, drowsiness and slurred speech.

12.    Forgetfulness or a lack of attention – Prescription drugs can lead to attention deficits and forgetfulness. Teens that seem suddenly a bit foggy headed may be using something that induces mental under performance.

13.    Sudden weight loss – some medications (particularly stimulant or amphetamine like drugs) can reduce appetite and lead to sudden and dramatic weight loss.

14.    Frequent injuries – Teens abusing prescription drugs tend to get hurt while intoxicated and then tend to have vague explanations for their frequent bruises, lacerations and breaks.

15.    A sudden defiance – teens who abuse drugs sometimes become suddenly very confrontational and aggressive.

None of the above signs of teen prescription drug abuse guarantees the existence of a problem, but the more signs you observe in your teen, the more concerned you need to be.

Remember, if your teen has a drug problem, the earlier you get involved and get help (if needed) the better the chances of a full recovery.

Click here to read more about treatment for prescription drug abuse.

Thanks to Sunrise Recovery Ranch, my daughter was able to get the lasting recovery she deserved from her addiction and her co-occurring mental health disorder. I am super grateful!

– Michelle A.
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