teen intervention

Intervention for Teenage Drug Use

As a parent, you are often the first to notice when something is different with your teen. They may appear more aloof and seem to be more secretive, not opening the door for conversation as often. Or you could observe a change in interests, resulting in less involvement in school or other activities. Whatever changes you’re noticing, if you’re concerned about potential drug use, early intervention is key to successful treatment. Let’s look at signs that could point to a substance use disorder and steps you can take to get your child the help they need.

Signs of Teenage Drug Abuse

You may have picked up on some differences in your adolescent’s behavior and attitude, but how do you know if this is due to changing hormones or a more serious issue? Common signs of teens who are using drugs may appear similar to hormonal changes on the surface. However, deeper insight helps highlight the differences. Some of the more prevalent behaviors of adolescents engaging in drug use include:

  • Increased Isolation: Teens are notorious for wanting privacy and time for themselves, but one of the most evident changes in adolescents who are using drugs is this desire for isolation dramatically increases. You may perceive your child spends long periods of time alone in their room and is less engaged with friends and family. This is cause for concern and could be an indication of deeper issues. 
  • Loss of Interest in Activities: If your child exhibits a change in interests, this can be alarming. A once-energetic, athletic child may now want to withdraw from their chosen sport. You could observe a decrease in grades despite your teen previously doing well academically. When adolescents are engaging in drug use, they lose interest and motivation to participate in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Increase in Irritability: Adolescents who are using drugs are likely to be defensive of behavior, resulting in irritability and anger. If you’re noticing your child is becoming angered more quickly, they may be attempting to hide problematic behaviors. Make note of the topics they are most defensive about to see if a pattern is emerging.
  • Physical Changes: Drug use leads to physical effects which are some of the most obvious signs of potential substance abuse. For example, adolescents who are snorting powders may exhibit frequent nose bleeds. Smoking illicit substances can result in lung conditions, such as breathing difficulties or coughing. You may also note bloodshot eyes, tremors, or significant changes in weight. 

How to Deal With Teen Substance Use

Noticing these changes is the first step in getting your teen the help they need to properly manage a substance use disorder. One of the first steps is to try to have a conversation about the behaviors you are noticing. Allow space for your child to explain their perspective while emphasizing your concern. It’s not uncommon for adolescents to be defensive of their actions, or they could deny these behaviors exist. 

Ideally, your child would be receptive and open to seeking help for their substance abuse, but this is not often the case. Adolescents may view their actions as acceptable, seeing no problem in the decisions they are making. When this happens, it can feel like an insurmountable challenge to get your child the help they need. Thankfully, there is hope for teens with a substance use disorder, and there is help available for both you and your child.

Teenage Interventions at Whitman Recovery Service

If having a conversation with your child at home about your concerns is unsuccessful, the best next step is to arrange for an intervention. A substance abuse intervention allows for a structured conversation about your teenager’s drug use, led by a mental health professional. The goal of these conversations is to highlight problematic behavior. It also allows space for loved ones to express their desire to see the adolescent’s mental and physical health improve. Professional interventions help break through to the person using drugs and encourage them to admit their issue and agree to treatment. If you need help having a conversation with your child about their substance abuse, contact us today to discuss our intervention services. 


Ali, S., Mouton, C. P., Jabeen, S., Ofoemezie, E. K., Bailey, R. K., Shahid, M., & Zeng, Q. (2011). Early detection of illicit drug use in teenagers. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 8(12), 24–28.