Warning Signs


Know the Warning Signs

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  • Not just occasionally – this is normal. We’re talking about continued disregard for your authority and rules.
  • Suspected substance use or abuse.
  • Aggression – fighting with and hurting others.
  • Extreme withdrawal – teens spending an inordinate amount of time in their room.
  • Loss of interest in activities your teen normally likes to do.
  • Change in appearance – neat kids become unkempt, rapid weight loss or gain, etc.
  • Continued talk about death, depression and suicide.

Drug Lingo, What to Look For

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Drug Lingo: Know What to Listen for

Have you ever heard your teenager reference the time “4:20?” Many parents don’t realize that 420 (pronounced “fourtwenty”) is a “secret code” for a time to get high. The reference to 420 presumably dates back to ’70s stoner lingo but is still widely recognized by the youth of today. Some people have even designated April 20th as “National Pot Smokers Day.”

If you hear your teenager reference 420, see that he is using the term while instant messaging with friends or has a 420 sticker on his car or backpack, call him on it. Let him know you know what he’s talking about and set up a time for a longer conversation about your family’s no tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use.

Some other used terms are:

  • Crunking: To get drunk on alcohol and high on drugs at the same time.
  • Dexing, robotripping or robodosing: To abuse cough syrups or other medications that contain dextromethorphan.
  • Toke up, burn a stick, burn one: To smoke marijuana.
  • Go fast, tweaking, spinning, cranking, getting glassed, and getting fried: To use methamphetamine.
  • Doing up, shooting up, chasing the tiger, and going on the nod: Terms associated with using heroin.

Teens and Drugs on the Web

A new study by the Caron Treatment Centers found that one in 10 messages on the Internet involved teens seeking advice from their peers on how to take illicit drugs. The messages were posted on common online message boards, forums, and social network sites. Here are some examples:

Cheese: This is a hazardous mix of black tar heroin and Tylenol PM (or other medicines containing diphenhydramine). It looks like grated parmesan cheese — thus the name. There were more than 20 teen deaths in Dallas and surrounding neighborhoods that have been attributed to Cheese since it was identified in 2005.

Candy flipping: This term refers to a high that’s achieved by combining LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) or acid with ecstasy.

You can use this drug slang translator to learn the latest drug slang terms kids are using.


When Typical Teen Behavior Becomes Troubled Teen Behavior

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Typical Teen Behavior Warning Signs of a Troubled Teen
Changing appearance. Keeping up with fashion is important to teens. That may mean wearing provocative or attention-seeking clothing or dyeing hair. Unless your teen wants tattoos, avoid criticizing and save your protests for the bigger issues. Fashions change, and so will your teen. Changing appearance can be a red flag if it’s accompanied by problems at school or other negative changes in behavior, or if there’s evidence of cutting and self-harm or extreme weight loss or weight gain.
Increased arguments and rebellious behavior. As teens begin seeking independence, you will frequently butt heads and argue. Constant escalation of arguments, violence at home, skipping school, getting in fights, and run-ins with the law are all red flag behaviors that go beyond the norm of teenage rebellion.
Mood swings. Hormones and developmental changes often mean that your teen will experience mood swings, irritable behavior, and struggle to manage his or her emotions. Rapid changes in personality, falling grades, persistent sadness, anxiety, or sleep problems could indicate depression, bullying, or another emotional health issue. Take any talk about suicide seriously.
Experimenting with alcohol or drugs. Most teens will try alcohol and smoke a cigarette at some point. Many will even try marijuana. Talking to your kids frankly and openly about drugs and alcohol is one way to ensure it doesn’t progress further. When alcohol or drug use becomes habitual, especially when it’s accompanied by problems at school or home, it may indicate a substance abuse issue or other underlying problems.
More influenced by friends than parents. Friends become extremely important to teens and can have a great influence on their choices. As teens focus more on their peers, that inevitably means they withdraw from you. It may leave you feeling hurt, but it doesn’t mean your teen doesn’t still need your love. Red flags include a sudden change in peer group (especially if the new friends encourage negative behavior), refusing to comply with reasonable rules and boundaries, or avoiding the consequences of bad behavior by lying. Your teen spending too much time alone can also indicate problems.





Worried About Warning Signs? Here Is What You Can Do

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The teen years can be tough for both parent and child. Teens face numerous pressures: be popular, do well in school, get along with the family and make important life decisions. On top of this, teens are experiencing physical, sexual, social and emotional changes. Many of these pressures are unavoidable for teens, and worrying about them, as parents is natural.

Most kids get through the teen years with success. Other teens may face obstacles that weaken their physical and emotional well being, discourage their motivation and ability to succeed in school, and damage personal relationships. With all this going on, teens can engage in risky behaviors – harming their physical and mental health and chances for future success.

Some Warning Signs are Subtle, While Others Are Very Clear

If a teen is in trouble, there are warning signs to watch for that signal help is needed. You might notice a change in your teen’s behavior. You may learn that your teen has experimented with a risky behavior for the first time. It may simply be that you “sense” that something isn’t quite right. Take these signs seriously.

Talk to Your Teen About Your Concerns

Pay attention to what your teen is doing and how they are feeling. Talk to them about it – and not just when you notice something different. Talk to them on a regular basis. By doing so, you help your teen avoid more difficult problems down the road. For support, talk to parents whose advice you trust.

Learn About Issues

Take the time to read about issues related to teens and risky behaviors. Find information at your library, school counselor’s office, medical clinic or faith-based organization.

Get Help From Professionals When You Need It

Professionals can help you get the right support you need, and determine whether your teen is in crisis. Discuss your concerns with your teen’s teacher, school counselor, doctor or other people you trust.

They can refer you to more information or provide professional care to keep your teen safe.


Teen Depression and Anxiety Signs

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Depression and anxiety are very common, affecting millions of Americans. Yeah, we all have a bad day or worry about school occasionally. Depression and anxiety are different because they affect people on a more regular basis. The good news is they are treatable and most people with depression and anxiety live very full lives!

What are symptoms of depression?

  • Feeling down
  • Irritability, anger, restless or loss of concentration
  • Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Change in eating or sleeping habits
  • Lack of motivation or energy
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


What are symptoms of anxiety?

  • Excessive worry
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Shortness of breath or rapid heart rate

Learn more about mental illness

What to do if you are concerned your teenager may have depression or anxiety?

Talk to your teenager.

Look for help! Talk to teachers, school counselors, or doctor.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK


Signs & Symptoms of Teen Drinking and Drug Use

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How can you tell if your child is using drugs or alcohol? It is difficult because changes in mood or attitudes, unusual temper outbursts, changes in sleeping habits and changes in hobbies or other interests are common in teens. What should you look for?

You can look for signs of depression, withdrawal, carelessness with cleaning or hostility. Also ask yourself, is your child doing well in school, getting along with friends, taking part in sports or other activities?

Watch List for Parents

  • Changes in friends
  • Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, or lower grades
  • Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
  • Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical smells
  • Subtle changes in conversations with friends, e.g. more mysterious, using “coded” language
  • Change in clothing choices: new attraction to clothes that highlight drug use
  • Increase in borrowing money
  • Evidence of drug equipment such as pipes, rolling papers, etc.
  • Evidence of use of inhalant products (such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, common household products); Rags and paper bags are sometimes used as accessories
  • Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol
  • Missing drugs at home—especially tranquillizers and mood stabilizers