Are you worried your child is using drugs? The teen and young adult years are often a time of experimentation, but it can be difficult to tell for sure whether or not your child has started using drugs. Some of the warning signs of drug use may also be normal teenage behavior, or signs of other issues, like emotional or mental health problems. If you are concerned that your child may be using drugs, try these tactics to identify potential drug use.
SIGNS YOUR CHILD MAY BE USING DRUGS
While some moodiness is a normal part of young adulthood, major shifts in mood or mood changes that correlate with social engagements may be signs of drug use. A teen using drugs may become sullen or withdrawn; they may act secretive and be reluctant to participate in family activities. After spending time with friends, does your child seem disoriented or unusually loud? Pay attention for signs of intoxication or repeated drug use like short-term memory issues, loss of inhibitions, and hyperactivity. They may appear to be fatigued in the mornings for longer than expected, or even nauseated. Teens who have been using drugs may show a loss of motivation and difficulty focusing. Rapid mood swings can also be a warning sign.
If you pay close attention, you may find physical indications that your child has been using drugs. Many marijuana users use Visine to treat telltale red eyes. Have you noticed that your child’s eyes are red or bloodshot lately? Immediately after your child gets home, you may also want to check their eyes. Depending on the drug, your child may have noticeably constricted or dilated pupils. This is also a good time to pay attention to how they talk; is their speech slurred?
Drug use may also lead to a decrease in personal hygiene or a sloppy appearance. Repeated marijuana use can cause burns on the thumb, forefinger, or mouth from joints burned down too far. If your child has been using more serious intravenous drugs, you may notice track marks or bruises from needles on their arms or legs. Other health issues associated with drug use include respiratory issues, nosebleeds, runny nose unrelated to a cold or allergies, excessive thirst, vomiting, dramatic weight loss or gain, and unexplained accidents and injuries.
One easy sign that is often overlooked is scent. If you suspect your child may be using drugs, talk to them face to face when they return home. If they have been drinking or using drugs, the scent of smoke or alcohol will remain on their hair, breath, and clothes. Sometimes other smells can also be warning signs of drug use; a sudden interest in air fresheners or incense might be covering up the smell of marijuana in their room or car. The same is true of breath mints, gum, and mouthwash.
SOCIAL & BEHAVIORAL CHANGES
It is important to stay aware of your child’s social life if you are concerned about them. Has your child started spending time with a new social group? Have the friends you know stopped coming around? A sudden switch to hanging out with a less savory social group may indicate drug use. Your child may be secretive about phone calls or messages or sound like they’re using coded language when talking to friends; you may find that they are oddly vague about social plans or are unable to give satisfactory answers to your questions about how they are spending their time. If you check their phone, you might notice new contacts that you don’t recognize or references to events and activities that don’t match up with what your teen has told you.
You may also hear about changes from your child’s work or school. A loss of interest in extracurricular activities, a drop in performance in schoolwork, or frequent absenteeism can all be warning signs of drug use.
DRUGS OR DRUG PARAPHERNALIA
Habitual drug users will generally be in possession of some kind of drug paraphernalia, such as rolling papers, bongs, pipes, or lighters. Keep an eye out for items like this in your child’s possession, around the house, or in the family car. If your concerns are serious, you may be considering searching your child’s room. Drugs or drug paraphernalia may be hidden in a number of places inside their room, such as tucked inside books or DVD cases, hidden under loose floorboards, or even buried in houseplants.
There are a number of signs that can indicate your child has started using drugs. In many cases, a sudden, unexpected change in any aspect of their life is likely a sign of upheaval, whether it be drug use, bullying, or mental health struggles. If you are concerned that your child is using drugs, it is important to be aware and pay attention to their relationships and behavior for any warning signs.