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Five Warning Signs Your Teen May Be Using Drugs

Johnny Patout, CEO of New Beginnings Recovery Center, shares five common warning signs that your teen may be abusing drugs, including change in mood, change in sleep pattern, lack of honesty, weight loss, and isolation.

sad girl sititng aloneRaising a teenager can be trying, but living with one suffering from addiction creates a host of new challenge that need to be handled delicately, says Johnny Patout, CEO of New Beginnings Recovery Center, the leading teen residential treatment program in the Southwest and one recognized nationwide for teen rehabilitation. Patout offers his

insights with five warning signs to look for if parents suspect their child is using drugs or alcohol ­ warning signs that could be the difference between a bright future and a lifetime of struggle.

“Many parents tell me they were blindsided by the discovery that their teen was using drugs or alcohol,” said Patout. “I want to help educate these parents on the signs to look for before it¹s too late for their child.” He listed these five warning signs:

1. Changes in mood. One of the very first signs parents will notice when their child is using drugs is that they seem to be a different person. A child who is using drugs can suddenly become withdrawn or act out with anger. This can be a particularly dramatic change if the child was once happy and full of life and vitality. Patout warns, “If you approach your child about the possibility of drug use, he or she will become angry or defensive, which itself may be an indication that drug use is an issue and that teen rehab may be necessary.”

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2. Changing sleep patterns. It is not uncommon for drug use to cause a change in a child¹s sleeping pattern. “Staying up all night and sleeping well into the afternoon is not unusual for teens, but if you notice a drastic change in the sleep habits of your child, then it is certainly something of which to take note,” Patout said. Is a child sleeping more during the day or sleeping less at night? Does he or she look tired all the time? Those can be signs of the beginning of addiction.

3. Lack of honesty. In order to keep drug use secret, a child will have to lie—frequently. Children using drugs will lie to cover up where they have been and what they have been doing. Patout tells parents, “The best way to spot this questionable behavior is to ask for details such as the friends’ names, the plot of the movie they claimed to see, or other specific details that should be no problem if they are being honest.” In order to continue to pay for their drugs, teens often resort to stealing money from parents, siblings, friends, and others close to them. It is important to determine the reason when a child frequently asks for more money or when money has gone missing in a home.

4. Loss of weight. When a child is using drugs on a frequent basis, and particularly if he or she has been using them for some time, parents may notice weight loss taking place. “Weight loss isn’t always easy to see, so it’s also smart to look for loss of appetite or suddenly wearing baggier clothes to hide their body,” says Patout. This weight loss can come on suddenly and be quite substantial.

5. Isolation. When a child is using drugs, parents might find that he or she is becoming more and more isolated. If parents notice a child avoiding social situations or spending a lot of time alone, perhaps shut up in his or her bedroom, they should know that this could be a sign of teen drug use.

“Children are naturally sociable and want to be around their peers,” explains Patout. “If your child stops spending time with friends and has been recently spending the majority of their time alone, it is justified to be suspicious and examine what is causing this isolation.”

It is important to remember that any one of these warning signs can be caused by a number of situations in a child¹s life, such as bullying or an underlying health problem. However, if parents notice more than one of these warning signs occurring at the same time, then they need to recognize the potential for teen drug abuse.

New Beginnings Recovery Center, the leading teen residential treatment program in the Southwest and recognized nationwide, has been helping teens overcome addiction for more than 30 years. New Beginnings offers a continuum of care for inpatient treatment, residential treatment, partial hospitalization and outpatient programs, and works with private insurance providers to find the lowest costs for their patients. For more information, visit

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