Signs and Symptoms of Teen Drug Use

We all know kids today are exposed to critical choices at a younger, more vulnerable
age than ever before. What was typical for high school students 10-20 years ago is more 
typical for junior high school students and even elementary school students today.
Living and growing up, even in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s was simpler, safer, and less 
stressful than today living in 2014 . Today, drugs are dangerously stronger, easier to use, 
less expensive, and more and more accessible to the very young. 
Parenting is tough today. A significant numbers of families have two working parents 
or a single parent in the home. Grandparents and relatives are usually far away. Parents 
are tired and have less time, contact, and influence over children than they have had for 
decades. Kids have less opportunity to learn values, problem-solving skills and healthy 
ways to relieve stress from their lives. Neighborhoods are less interactive and more 
isolated. With far less guidance from positive adult role models, children are making 
critical and life changing decisions that can a affect them for the rest of their lives. 
Police and counselors who work with troubled adolscents say younger kids are now 
dealing drugs -- especially very high-priced and potent marijuana -- on most high school 
campuses. In addition to marijuana, drugs dealt on our local high school campuses 
include ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamines (speed, meth, crystal meth, just to name 
a few), and over the counter and prescription drugs which are obtained from home 
medicine cabinets. Heroin and synthetic drugs such as Spice, K2, and Bath Salts have 
also appeared on our school campuses. 
Some of them are supplied by organized networks of smugglers and cultivators, placing 
even young teens into contact with a very dangerous world of adult criminals. 
None of our kids are immune to the lure of drug and alcohol use and abuse. 
For the last several decades middle-class families have been fleeing from the cities to 
the suburbs, in part because many parents see the suburbs, and suburban public schools 
in particular, as refuges from the disorder and social collapse they see as endemic to 
America's urban school districts. Parents believe that suburban public schools provide 
children with safer, more orderly, and more wholesome environments than their urban 
Cary Quashen, a nationally recognized drug expert, who has over 30 years of experience 
as a high-risk teen counselor wants parents to know about today's teen drug culture. 
According to Quashen, parents frequently inquire about the signs and symptoms of 
addiction when trying to assist their teen or a teen's friend. Addiction is described as the 
compulsive activity and over-whelming involvement with a specific activity, whether 
smoking or activities that involve the use of almost any chemical substance such as drugs 
or alcohol. 
"With drug and alcohol addiction the dependency may be psychological or both 
psychological and physical. A psychological dependence can be very powerful and 
difficult to overcome. It is based on a desire to continue taking a drug to induce pleasure 
or to relieve tension and avoid discomfort," says Quashen, "Drugs that cause this type 
of dependency work on the brain creating effects such as reduced anxiety and tension, 
pleasurable mood changes such as elation or euphoria, feelings of increased mental and 
physical ability and an altered sense of perceptions. When the dependence is physical 
the body adapts to the drug when it is used continually leading to a tolerance and then 
withdrawal symptoms when use stops. The idea that addicts are weak willed or morally 
corrupt has long ago been debunked. That attitude keeps chemically addicted people 
from seeking treatment and fosters shame and fear around their illness." 
Quashen adds the sooner a drug problem is recognized, the easier it is to stop it. If a 
parent is concerned about drug or alcohol abuse by their teen one should look for sudden 
changes in mood and behavior, such as: 
  • Unusual hostility, irritability, or secretiveness
  • Withdrawal from the family
  • Changes in friends
  • Resistance to discipline
  • A pattern of dishonesty, stealing and trouble with the police
  • The possession of large amounts of cash
  • A drop in grades
  • A sudden increase in absences and tardiness
  • Poor concentration and short-term memory
  • Slurred speech
  • A loss of motivation and interest in regular activities
  • Drug-related messages or symbols on possessions
  • A lack of concern for appearance or hygiene
  • A noticeable change in your teen's physical well-being such as:
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated or shrunken pupils
  • A constant runny nose or cough
  • A major change in eating or sleeping habits
  • Sudden weight loss
  • A lack of energy 
Quashen also adds that these signs may indicate a problem other than drug use and that 
drugs and traces of drugs, and drug paraphernalia are more direct evidence of drug use. 
"If you suspect that your teen is using drugs, question everything," says Quashen. "Make 
sure you monitor what your teen is doing as much as possible. If you feel you have strong 
evidence and decide to intervene, wait until your teen is sober. Call on other family 
members and friends to support you in the confrontation, if necessary."
Quashen also offers these do's and don't:
  • Don't panic or blame yourself
  • Do self-examine, consider the example you've set
  • Don't be sarcastic, accusatory or sympathy seeking
  • Do express concern and understanding
  • Don't be swayed by denials if you have hard evidence
  • Do be firm, stick to established discipline
  • Don't try to sway the teen with emotional appeals
  • Do present the evidence calmly and rationally, without giving the teen a chance to lie
So the question becomes where do you turn for support if your teen if is using drugs? 
According to Quashen, there are programs in many communities that deal with 
adolescent drug and alcohol use and abuse. One only needs to look on line today to find 
support services. Those residing in counties and cities can find support by contacting 
these cities and counties directly. In this day and age according to Quashen, local law 
enforcement agencies and hospitals have support services contact information as well. 
Founded by Cary Quashen years ago, the ACTION Parent & Teen Support program is a 
non-profit program, which supports groups of concerned parents who meet to offer each 
other support and practical solutions to problems. A parent who has been trained, as an 
Action group facilitator leads each parent group.
"The Action Parent & Teen Support program is structured very differently from most 
parent support groups," said Quashen, "While parents are meeting, teens attend the 
Action Teen Group. These groups are led by certificated and licensed counselors who are 
experienced in working with young people growing up into today's world, who maybe 
be making wrong choices. There are "no bad" kids, but kids who make wrong choices, 
and sometimes those choices can be deadly. Teens are often faced with pressures and 
decisions that can be confusing and frustrating. Action offers a place for teens to learn 
positive behaviors that will work for them. They learn skills to promote healthier and 
happier lifestyles."
According to Quashen parents who have specific concerns about potential teen drug use 
can have their teens drug tested at an Action Parent & Teen Support Group meeting. 
In addition to the Action Parent & Teen Support Group meetings, Quashen is the 
president, and founder of the Action Family Counseling Centers and runs intensive 
outpatient and residential treatment programs for adolescent substance abuse in Los 
Angeles, Ventura, and Kern Counties. For further information about the Action Parent 
& Teen Support Group meetings one may call the Action Hotline at 1-800-FOR TEEN
For further information about the signs and symptoms of teenage drug use and Quashen’s
speaking engagements or the Action Parent & Teen Support Group meetings held across
the Southern California area, one may call the ACTION Hotline at 1-800-For-Teen.

With drug and alcohol residential treatment locations in Santa Clarita, Piru, and Bakersfield; Intensive Drug and Alcohol Outpatient in Santa Clarita and Bakersfield, Action Family Counseling is here to help you.

For information regarding admission, intake, and services please call Action Family Counseling at (800) 367-8336 or visit

Being a teenager today is a lot different than when we were kids.
The social and academic pressures are different. Drugs, alcohol, sex and gangs, are today’s 
For some kids these pressures become too great. That’s where Action can help. Action is the parent and teen support program that families depend on 
to help when the stress becomes too much for your teen. 
If you are having trouble with your teen call (800) 367-8336