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The Opioid Epidemic and Teens

 |  General

The opioid use epidemic has been making headlines in recent years, but it is a problem that is not just affecting adults. Teen opioid use is rising so quickly, that it can affect families at every level. According to the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid use is now one of the leading forms of drug addiction among teens.

Many teens start on the road to opioid use disorder by getting a hold of prescription painkillers. In 2016, 2.14 million people aged 12 and older had an opioid use disorder with 153,000 of them being aged 12-17 years old.

Signs your teen might be using opioids

Recognizing the sign of possible teen opioid use is the most critical part of taking early action before things progress too far. These are the signs of possible opioid use disorder to look out for:

Changes in behavior

Dramatic shifts in their behavior could be a sign of teen opioid use, especially if the behavior includes stealing, lying, skipping school, or being very secretive about their activities.


As teens grow, they naturally shy away from friends and family for short periods of time as they work through the issues of adolescence. But, when the isolation becomes a persistent issue, this could be a flag that your teen is experiencing more than just typical emotions.

Changes in friends

Teens switch friends often. It’s just part of growing up. But paying attention to the type of people your teen is hanging around with will give you an idea of what they may be doing. Changes in their circle of friends may happen suddenly or gradually over time. Pay special attention to friends your teen had for years who suddenly stop coming around.

Aggressive behavior

Aggression is a common symptom in opioid use disorder, especially when the person is suffering from symptoms of withdrawal. Making threats, strong irritability, pacing, and violence are significant red flags.

Lower energy levels

Because of the effect opioids have on the system, significantly low energy levels in teens are a concerning signal. Low energy levels could be a direct result of the drug itself, or due to poor nutrition.

Lack of motivation

Opioids are depressants and one sign of teen opioid use is a severe lack of motivation. If they seem more apathetic, with low morale or low productivity, this is a sign that shouldn’t be ignored.

Changes in appearance

Similar to the reasons above, opioid addiction can cause teens to not care about their appearance or change how they view themselves. A dramatic change in appearance and hygiene levels is a common sign to watch out for.

How to talk to your teen about opioids

If you suspect your teen is using opioids, it is important to not jump to conclusions or get angry with them. This could push them deeper down the hole and further away. Stay calm, understand the signs and the treatments available. Some other ways to approach your about opioid use are:

Choose informal times to talk

Strike up a conversation while at dinner or in the car on your way to the store. You can mention current events as an ice breaker. This will keep the tone of the discussion more casual and not aggressive.

Check-in frequently to see how your child is doing

Plan on having frequent talks with your teen. The idea is to occasionally reinforce the information and check-ins without coming across like you are accusing them of something.

Be clear and consistent about your expectations

Set rules and expectations about hanging out with friends, how they should respond if offered drugs, and how you would feel about them using drugs. Remind them of the devastating effect drugs can have on their developing minds and bodies.

At denova Collaborative Healthcare, we understand the fear parents face when they suspect their teens may be involved with drugs. We specialize in teen opioid use and opioid addiction therapies to get to the root of the problem and send our patients on the road to healing. If you suspect your teen needs help, contact us today to speak confidentially with one of our opioid addiction specialists.