The substance abuse epidemic affecting the United States knows no boundaries. Among those affected, teens and young adults are among the most vulnerable. For many the roots of addiction form during this time, beginning as experimentation or a desperate attempt to self-medicate and cope. Catching the early signs of addiction can change the path of one’s life, redirecting them toward a brighter future.
Recognizing teen drug and alcohol abuse in schools is paramount to addressing the substance abuse epidemic at its source. Though we would love to believe that schools are safe havens from the dangers of the world, ignoring the realities of underage drinking and drug use is an oversight we can not afford. For educators, counselors, and other professionals in the educational field, knowing what signs to look for is important.
Signs of Teen Substance Abuse
- Decline in academic performance
- Skipping class
- Falling asleep in class
- Changes in social circles
- Evident impairment
- Loss of interest in extracurricular activities
- Disciplinary issues
- Defensiveness and secretiveness
- Concealed drug paraphernalia
- Lingering scent of marijuana
- Bloodshot eyes
- Red/flushed face
- Inability to focus
- Impaired balance
- Alcohol on the breath
- Hangover symptoms
- Constricted or dilated pupils
- “Track mark” puncture scars
Addressing Teen Substance Abuse in Schools
If you suspect a student may be using drugs or alcohol, addressing the issue properly is key. While teen drinking or drug use is not necessarily indicative of addiction, it is usually a sign of deeper issues. Unaddressed mental health issues or past traumas can lead one to drug or alcohol use as a coping mechanism. It’s important for schools and educators to have resources for addressing these underlying causes of substance abuse. Behavioral health support for both teens and their families can help begin the healing process.