Addiction can, unfortunately, happen to anyone – regardless of gender, lifestyle and even age. If you suspect your teenager may be using drugs or drinking alcohol, it’s important that you address the topic. Acting soon can lead to a more positive outcome for everyone involved. Here, we reveal the warning signs of addiction in teens and highlight what you can do if your teenager needs help.


Addiction in Teenagers

A study from University College London found that 1 in 10 17-year-olds has tried hard drugs like ketamine and cocaine. The same research revealed that a third of 17-year-olds had tried cannabis and over half admitted to binge drinking. A similar study that surveyed British adults born in the 1980s, when they were teenagers, also found similar levels of alcohol and drug use.

Emla Fitzsimons, who co-authored the study, but the level of drug and alcohol use amongst teenagers down to experimentation – which is a natural part of growing up. The study found that as teenagers near adulthood, they’re more likely to refrain from binge drinking and drug use.

Despite this, it’s important to remember that drug and alcohol use can lead to harmful addictions and consequences for physical and mental health. This can also directly impact an individual’s social and economic outcome.


Signs of Addiction in Young People

There are many signs of addiction, but unfortunately, in the case of young people, it’s easy to pass these off as typical adolescent behaviour. Below are some of the most common signs of addiction. If you spot any, it’s essential not to ignore them, as getting a young person the help they need is crucial to their recovery.

  • Mood changes include being withdrawn, angry, quiet, secretive and unmotivated
  • Changes in relationships
  • Absenteeism
  • Inability to make eye contact
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Going out a lot
  • Poor hygiene and changes in appearance
  • Weight loss
  • Skin abrasions


Five Common Symptoms of Addiction in Teens

There isn’t a set list of symptoms that means someone is suffering from addiction. Instead, if anything has made you question your teenager’s behaviour, it’s important to consider why and enlist the help of a medical professional. These are five warning signs to look out for:

Mood Changes

Adulthood brings emotional, physical and mental changes that can be difficult to deal with. Some teenagers retreat into themselves and find it hard to communicate their feelings. Unfortunately, this can also be a sign of addiction. If your child suddenly says you can’t enter their room without permission or avoids particular questions about where they’ve been, and with whom, this could cause concern.

Moreover, excessive anger and mood swings could also be signs of addiction.

Different Friendships

It’s normal for teenagers to lose touch with certain friends, and you won’t always know your child’s friends that well. However, it’s essential to at least get to know their names, who they are and where your child met them. If not, how will you be able to spot troublesome characters?

Equally, if your child has had the same best friend since they were little and suddenly stopped speaking to them, it’s essential to try and find out why. It might be nothing but also related to something more serious.

Poor School Performance

Regularly attending school performance evenings and looking out for report cards is a great way to get a full picture of how your child is doing. While a drop in grades might be because your teenager is struggling with a certain subject, it could also mean that they’re distracted by something else. If you are concerned about it, arranging a meeting with their teachers could help you weigh the potential causes.

Being More Ill

If your child is getting sick more often, this is always a cause for concern. But as well as ill health, it could also indicate something more serious like a hangover or even withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms occur when an individual has built up a dependence on drugs and alcohol and their body cannot function without. Side effects range from mild symptoms like shaking, sweating, and muscle cramps and can become more severe and include seizures and hallucinations. If your child is frequently skipping school because they feel unwell, it’s important to not ignore it.

Physical Changes

As someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, it’s common for them to prioritise their substance use over their appearance and hygiene. This is because obtaining and use the drug and alcohol typically becomes their sole focus. For this reason, it’s not unusual for someone to lose weight, become paler, and take less pride in their hair, make up and clothes. Being under the influence can also make someone more clumsy so keep an eye out for cutes, bruises and scratches. You may also notice a change in their eyes. Some drugs will dilate the pupils whereas alcohol causes them to be bloodshot.


Get Help For Your Teenager

It isn’t always easy to recognise signs of addiction or substance abuse in teenagers but if you do suspect anything, it’s important to act. While it might be a difficult conversation to have, if you don’t do anything about it, the situation may become worse. What’s more, often, the only way to recover, long-term, requires medical support and assistance from a team of leading addiction recovery experts.

You don’t have to do it alone, though. The team at Ocean Recovery is here to help everyone affected by addiction. So if you’re concerned about your teenager today, why not pick up the phone and see how we could help? Call on 0800 880 7596.


John Gillen - Author - Last updated: January 27, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.