By Jeanne Rose
Addiction is prevalent in America and one of the biggest culprits of addiction is opiates among our youth. Opiates often come in the form of prescription pain medications and usually contain hydrocodone or oxycodone, such as Vicodin or Percocet. Narcotic pain medications often find themselves in the hands of teenagers, which can result in the beginning of a long road and might lead to other opiates such as Heroin. Here are some of the most common ways you can tell if your teenager is battling opiate addiction based on my own personal observations of family members, and they are easy to spot than you realize.
1. One easy way to figure out whether or not your teenager is abusing opiates is if you are missing prescription medication in your house. You might be prescribed opiates in pain management yourself or maybe you have recently undergone a medical procedure and were prescribed the medication. A lot of parents do not realize that leaving a bottle of opiates in your bathroom, bedroom or kitchen is an easy way to tempt a teenager into stealing some of your pills. If you had a procedure a year ago and have kept the medication put up then you should know that even expired pain medication such as Vicodin still works, which means your teenager can still be getting high from it. Your teenager might have even gotten a taste for opiates during their own medical procedure such as a broken bone or surgery, and these instances might also be cause for concern over addiction. If you do keep prescription medication in your house then you should always pill count yourself to note how many are there and then you will be able to figure out whether your teenager is responsible for taking them if they come up missing.
2. If you have a teenager who falls asleep at very odd times during the day then this could also be a sign of opiate addiction, especially if they just seem to be nodding out during dinner. You might not think about sleeping as a sign of an opiate addiction but when someone takes pills such as Vicodin, it will often make them tired and you might notice them drifting off to sleep or closing their eyes fairly often. This is really obvious to spot because if your child smokes cigarettes then you might notice cigarette burns on the carpet, bed, or even on their body from them nodding out with a lit cigarette. Your teenager will probably spend an abnormal amount of time in bed the day after getting high on opiates to sleep through the comedown, so be on the lookout for that as well.
3. A true opiate addiction also will leave your teenager feeling the need to get high all the time, so be on the lookout for missing electronics or other items of value in your house. When someone is going through addiction they will often steal things to both pawn and get money or to just trade outright for the drugs. Look around your house and see whether or not you are missing tools, video game consoles, laptops, cell phones or anything else that you know has a lot of value. These items might also belong to your teenager and they might give an excuse such as they lost their cell phone or computer equipment, but in reality they pawned it go get money for opiates. It is often less shameful for a teenager to steal something in the house than tell their parents they are suffering from addiction, so this is why stealing valuable items is so common.
4. Your teenager might also be having a hard time at school and this includes socializing less with friends or maybe they have lost friends or failed a class. Opiate addiction will make you forget all your worries and you will not care about anything, even if your teenager once excelled at school. Your child might be hanging out with different people now or even just be reclusive from the once active social life they held. These are all warning signs that something might be wrong with your teenager, it does not always mean drugs or opiates specifically, but it is something to consider. Your teenager might also be sleeping during class, getting suspended or detentions, and they might just overall have a hard time getting to school each day. This can be one of the most effective warning signs of opiate abuse if your child normally does very well in school and is often involved with extra activities. Pay attention to who calls your house as well since you might notice some strange numbers or voices on the phone that you never heard before, and this might be the new crowd your child is hanging out with.
5. Watch how much money your child goes through in a typical week and pay attention to amounts of money that they might ask you for. If your teenager has a job then this is pretty easy to track because you probably know how many hours they are working and what they are being paid. If your teenager makes $200 each week and by the end of the week they get paid they are broke, then you know maybe your teenager is dabbling into an opiate habit. Opiates are basically the most expensive types of drugs on the market, especially if your teenager is doing prescription pain medication. Pills are very expensive and if you are into a serious addiction it could cost well over $300 each week, so make sure you know a little bit about where the money is going. If your teenager normally gets money from you then make sure you keep track of how much you are giving them and how often. Sometimes your teenager might tell you that something at school is going to cost a certain amount of money, and do not always take this at face value. Call the school and verify that your teenager needs money for what they are telling you if you suspect something nefarious is going on.
6. Finally, pay attention to the physical signs of opiate addiction especially relating to intravenous injection of drugs like Heroin. Look for obvious signs such as track marks, which might look like cat scratches that never seem to go away and grow within a short amount of time. Look for any abnormal raised areas of the skin which could be the result of an abscess such as in the inner arm or on the wrist. You also want to look for bruises and any unusual marks that might be consistent with someone trying to hit a vein with a hypodermic needle such as puncture wounds or marks. With the prices of prescription pain medication rising, Heroin is likely to become the drug of choice for those on a low income such as a teenager. You should also make sure you count your own hypodermic needles if you are a diabetic so that you can figure out if they are being stolen from you to support this addiction.
As you can see, it can be quite obvious to see the signs of opiate addiction in a teenager, but also can be a little challenging. A lot of these warning signs can be signs of another addiction, mental problems or it can also be a typical teenage phase. Make sure you just keep tabs on your teenager and tell them they if they are experiencing an addiction to talk to you and you can get them help. If you come at your teenager in a caring and concerned manner instead of angry or threatening then you might be able to stop the opiate addiction before it reaches possibly fatal levels.