How to Recognize Signs Your Teen Is Using Opioids

Historically low rates of Opioid (and drug) use among teens is a promising sign that prevention efforts are working. Between 2013 and 2018, Vicodin® use fell by 58% among 8th graders, 75% among 10th graders, and 67% among 12th graders. Moreover, teens are also reporting that prescription Opioids are harder to find than they used to be. Despite these encouraging numbers, overdose deaths continue to increase among high schoolers, which is why it is critical that parents learn the signs your teen is using opioids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for every overdose death, there are 119 emergency room visits and 22 addiction treatment admissions.

Researchers believe this data points to the increased lethality of Opioids (like Heroin) which often contain trace amounts of the deadly compounds Fentanyl or Carfentanil.

Risk Factors for Teenage Drug Abuse

Intervening early in a child’s life can radically alter it in a positive way. Just as spotting a potential illness and treating it early can keep teens healthy into adulthood, recognizing the risk factors associated with Opioid abuse can save their life. Teens who may be more at risk include those who:

  • Have parents who abuse drugs (including smoking, drinking, illicit drug use, and prescription drug abuse)
  • Suffer from a mental illness
  • Exhibit symptoms of impulse-control disorders or aggressive disruptive behavior
  • Are diagnosed with acute or chronic pain
  • Have friends who use drugs or alcohol

Almost half of teens who reported abusing prescription Opioids said they got them from a friend or family member.

5 Signs Your Teen Could Be Using Opioids

Because teens are already going through enormous mental, emotional, and physical changes, it can be difficult to determine if a bad mood is the result of drug abuse or hormonal fluctuations. The effects of prescription pain reliever and Heroin use include physical symptoms like sleepiness, confusion, insomnia, nausea, constipation, flushed skin, and itching. Other, behavioral signs of Opioid use to be on the lookout for include:

  • Finishing prescriptions early
  • Mood changes after hanging out with friends
  • Withdrawing from hobbies, school functions, and family events
  • Poor/declining school or work performance or attendance
  • Changes in sleep patterns

For more information on the effects of Opioids, check out What Are Opioids?

If you think your child might be abusing Opioids, set up a plan to intervene as soon as possible. Find addiction treatment centers in your area by visiting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.