Orlando drug abuse counselors comment on recent news related to increased drug use in elementary schools.  Every parent’s biggest fear is to find out whether or not their child is using drugs or alcohol. There is never an easy way to be certain that your child is perhaps abusing drugs or alcohol. Many of the signs and symptoms for substance abuse can be related to other mental health disorders and at times to typical teen behaviors. It is recommended that if you suspect substance abuse in your teen to simply ask. Do not be alarmed if your child lies about it or tries to hide it. Chronic users usually have poor coping skills and tend to self-medicate during difficult times. Most teens will engage in experimental drug use presented by other classmates and peer pressure. Keep in mind that drugs do not discriminate and it could happen in any family regardless of status, age, lifestyle or gender.

Article Author Mayeling Angelastro, MS interviewed below by CBS 6 on Drug Use in Elementary School

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1. Behavioral Problems: Substance abuse in teens may cause drastic changes in relationships with family members or even friends. Sudden mood instability or irrational mood swings. Other behaviors such as withdrawal, laughing at nothing, sudden lack of coordination and hostility could be associated with substance abuse.

2. Personal Hygiene: It is not uncommon for a teen to have a decreased desire in personal hygiene. There could be a tendency of wearing long sleeves in warm weather to cover up marks, burns on fingers or possibly lips, red eyes or flushed cheeks.

3. Health Problems: Be aware of sudden weight changes, sweatiness, headaches, nosebleeds or unexplained skin abrasions. Substance abuse will have an effect on their health. Constant runny nose not related to colds or allergies can be an effect of substance abuse.

4. Personal Habits: Be weary of new personal habits out of the ordinary for your teen. Such habits include but are not limited to:

  1. Cash flow problems.
  2. Sudden appetite known as “munchies,”
  3. Excessive use of eye drops.
  4. Increased outings at night.
  5. Frequent breaks in curfew.

As you already noticed, these behaviors will not be only related to substance abuse. However, if you suspect these changes in your teen then there is a high possibility that your teen is going through something that requires professional attention. It is not recommended for a parent to wait to be certain of a substance abuse to seek help. As mentioned before, most chronic users are self-medicating and have developed poor coping skills.

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Author: Mayeling Angelastro, MA is an Orlando Winter Park Bilingual Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern providing help to couples, families, couples, children and teenagers with offices in Winter Park and East Orlando.  (407) 248-0030