One of the hallmarks of addiction is a pattern of deceptive behavior. Addicts, whether they are relatively young or seasoned abusers, will go to extreme lengths to protect their ability to use drugs and alcohol unimpeded. The difficulty in detecting this behavior is further compounded when living with a teen or young adult. More often than not, the warning signs and symptoms associated with alcoholism and drug dependence can resemble typical adolescent behavior. So it is not surprising that some parents are completely unaware that their child is using drugs or alcohol. This may be due to a lack of overt signs and symptoms, or due to a parent’s lack of awareness and understanding surrounding teen drug and alcohol use. This article will cover ways that a substance use disorder could be taking place without your knowledge.
1. Being Dishonest About Plans and Scheduled Activities
Teens and young adults that are experimenting with drugs or alcohol, or who have developed substance abuse issues, will go to great lengths to hide their drug use. This is especially true for teens with parents that have conveyed expectations, rules, and a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use. One of the main ways teens are able to use behind their parent’s backs is by being dishonest about their plans and scheduled activities. Teens that are experimenting with or abusing drugs or alcohol will often lie to their parents and fabricate a so-called “plan” that takes up a majority of the day or evening. This provides the teen with ample time to not only use drugs or alcohol but also provide them with enough time to sober up prior to returning home. A major red flag for parents that suspect teen or young adult drug and alcohol use is when a child frequently engages in activities where they are unable to be reached by phone, such as a movie, theme park, the beach, or a place with poor cell service. If you are a concerned parent and you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol, there should never be an extended period of time where you are unable to reach your child. It is highly recommended that parents require their child to not only check in frequently but also provide the exact location and company they are with.
2. The “Sleepover”
Sleepovers may seem like a harmless and innocent way for teens to spend time with their friends. Unfortunately, the teenage ‘sleepover’ is increasingly becoming a way for teens to engage in drug or alcohol use while avoiding parental detection. When a parent perceives an activity to be innocent and harmless, like a sleepover, they rarely question or challenge the information provided by their child. When a teen is given permission to spend the night away from home, they are also given the opportunity to engage in risky behaviors. When a teen goes to a friend’s house for a sleepover, there is rarely a scheduled ‘pick-up’ time. In many cases, their parent doesn’t even pick up teens; instead, they spend the majority of the following day with friends and return home in the afternoon or late evening. This not only provides a teen with close to 24 hours away from home, but it also allows a teen to hide the location of the ‘sleepover’ from their parents. This isn’t to say that every sleepover is a cover for underage drinking and drug use. However, with teen drug and alcohol use on the rise, it is up to parents to be vigilant and question all information given by their children. It is recommended that parents not only drop their child off at the location of the sleepover but also schedule a pick-up time from the same location the following morning. Parents should also require the name of the sleepover host and be provided with a home phone number. It is also recommended to contact the host of the sleepover and speak with their parents. More often than not, the other parent will respect and appreciate your due diligence.
3. Increased Concern for Their Privacy
Whenever a young adult is engaging in drug abuse or alcohol abuse, the intense cravings often evolve to a point where they start using in their house. In the interest of keeping their addiction a secret, they might demand more privacy than before. That can look like keeping their bedroom door closed or locked, or spending a long time in the shower with the fan on.
If you suspect that there are signs of drug use behind closed doors, it is important to know how best to confront the young adult about addiction and the negative consequences it can lead to.
4. Hiding Drugs and Alcohol Under Your Roof
Teen drug and alcohol use can be relatively easy to hide, especially if parents don’t know what to look for. A child that is using drugs or alcohol will go to great lengths to hide their drug usage. It is not uncommon for teens and young adults to hide drugs and alcohol right at home. Teens can be exceptionally clever when it comes to this. Excessive secrecy and demand for privacy is often an indicator of possible drug or alcohol use. Not only do teens hide drugs and alcohol in their rooms, but they also hide them in their bathrooms and car. Unfortunately, the hiding places are limitless. Here are some of the most common places teens hide drugs:
Empty soda cans: These can be homemade or purchased. Teens often unscrew the top of the can and stash drugs and drug paraphernalia inside. If you see a soda can that seems to constantly be present, you may want to investigate.
Personal hygiene items and makeup: Teens often hide drugs inside lipstick tubes, makeup compacts, deodorant sticks, and any other item that can be hollowed out. Shampoo bottles, hair product bottles, and other similar items are popular ways for teens to hide and store alcohol.
Vehicles: Cars are one of the most common places teens hide drugs. Teens often place drugs in a bag and tape them behind the dashboard, under the seat, and/or under the hood. It is recommended that parents frequently and randomly check their teen’s vehicle.
Bathroom toilets and vents: A popular place for teens to hide drugs is under the toilet tank lid and in bathroom vents. Vents can easily be removed and replaced while avoiding parental detection. The bathroom is a popular spot for teens to hide drugs because most bathroom doors can be locked. This makes it easier for teens to both hide and access drugs.
Books: Teens are able to cut out pages within a book, creating the perfect place to hide drugs and drug paraphernalia. Teens with a large number of books in their room often prefer this hiding location.
Mattresses and toys: Teens are able to cut holes into mattresses and stuffed toys in order to create a secret compartment to hide drugs and alcohol. If your child insists on changing their own sheets or traveling with the stuffed animal – this may be a warning sign and warrant further inspection.
5. Covering Up Drug or Alcohol Use
It is often challenging for parents to detect drug or alcohol use. This is often due to the increasingly creative and inventive ways teens are able to cover it up. Teens often use incense, perfume, or air fresheners to hide the smell of smoke or drugs. Teens and young adults who smoke marijuana in the home are able to hide the smell with two basic items found right at home: a toilet paper roll and fabric softener sheets. Teens take an empty toilet paper roll and place a scented fabric softener sheet at the end of the roll. They are then able to disguise the smell by blowing the marijuana smoke through the tube. Teens often use Visine to eliminate red eyes caused by drug usage. Teens are able to hide the smell of alcohol on their breath by chewing gum, using breath mints, or eating mixed nuts. If any of these items are found in your child’s possession, it may be a sign that they are using drugs or alcohol.
6. Stealing Alcohol or Drugs From Parents
One of the easiest and most common ways teens are able to get their hands on drugs and alcohol is often right at home. Teens that are using drugs or alcohol may be stealing from their parent’s supplies. One of the most common ways teens are able to steal alcohol from their parents while avoiding detection is by taking small amounts over an extended period of time. Wine is another easy thing for teens to steal, especially if parents have a large number of wine bottles in the home. It is rare that parents have an organized and accurate inventory of the alcohol that is in the home. Teens may take prescription drugs or marijuana found in the home. Prescription drug abuse is on the rise. Teens are often unaware of the dangers associated with prescription drugs and often hold the false belief that they are safer than other illicit drugs. It is up to parents to discard any unused, expired, or unwanted prescription drugs. It is recommended that parents keep all prescription drugs in a safe and keep alcohol in an area of the home that teens do not have access to. While it may be difficult to prevent a child from accessing and obtaining drugs outside of the home, it is definitely possible to make sure that a child isn’t accessing drugs under your roof.
7. Psychological and Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
Drug abuse is commonly a side effect of untreated mental health disorders that may have developed over the course of their childhood. Addicts often use alcohol or other drugs to numb the pain associated with uncomfortable feelings. But a substance use disorder may exacerbate the underlying mental health issues whose symptoms will be delayed until the drug wears off in their system.
Physically, there are some significant long-term health consequences that can develop from drug addiction. The immediate physical warning signs include small or dilated pupils; drowsiness, loss or increase in appetite; weight loss or weight gain; flu-like symptoms; and hiding arms by wearing long sleeves. Furthermore, some of the behavior changes that can arise are irritability, change in hobbies/interests, poor performance in school or work, or avoiding contact with family members and friends.
Is Your Teen Struggling with Drug Addiction?
In order to address and prevent teenage drug and alcohol use, parents must continue to educate themselves about substance abuse and addiction. As family members, if you have noticed significant physical, behavioral, or psychological changes in your child, they may be using drugs or alcohol. The first and most important thing a parent can do under these circumstances is to come right out and ask your child. Of course, not all teens are going, to be honest in their responses. It does however open up a line of communication between you and your child. If your teen is struggling with drug addiction, seek help from an interventionist or an addiction specialist.
The crucial component to helping them stop
The crucial component when confronting your child about the signs of hidden drug use is having a plan in place to remove your son or daughter from their using environment. Understanding that your child is an addict and won’t stop until good and ready is significant. No one regardless of age can stop until they concede to their innermost selves that they need help. Still, in an effort to impede the escalation of drug and alcohol abuse, it is imperative to put a roadblock up whenever possible where young people are concerned.
There is so much shame attached to drug addiction, and undergoing alcohol or drug addiction treatment while living in a long-term family-centered recovery home is a safe place to come to terms with it and make significant behavioral changes. Being in an environment where peers are on the same path, and supporting each other sets your son or daughter up to be able to realize long-term sobriety, emotional health, productive, and drug-free life.
Drug abuse is a rocky road. Some young people will slip and have a harder time finding their way, but when shown the solution to living free of substances – if they are truly addicts – they will know where to return to in order to get the help they need.
Last Updated on October 4, 2022