Is Your Teen Doing Drugs? 8 Early Warning Signs for Parents

Is your teen behaving unusually? Has he/she been having problems sleeping and eating? Are they missing out school and failing tests?

If you answered yes to some (or to all) of these questions, your teenager may be using drugs. Unfortunately, according to a survey done by Project Know, in the US, around 50 percent of teens have reported misusing drugs at least once in their life.

Without doubt, teenage years are challenging due to ongoing changes. And, this is a period when experimentation with substances is very common.

The problem arises when drug experimentation turns into drug abuse and starts causing issues, including growth problems, poor mental and physical health, and even addiction.

To make things worse, drug use from an early age increases the risk of long term addiction.

Unfortunately, finding out that our teen is using drugs is not always straightforward. This is why we need to be aware of the early warning signs in order to provide help.

The challenge is to maintain quality and regular communication with our children, especially during adolescence, in order to lower the risk of drug abuse.

However, many parents claim they don’t talk about drugs with their children simply because they ‘don’t know how’. Others are certain that their children ‘will never come into contact with drugs’.

Most teens do come into contact with drugs at some point in their lives and they may be tempted to ‘see how it feels’, regardless of how well you are raising them.

But, experts advise that parents should learn how to approach their children about this topic and to do it as early as the age of sixteen, if they want to make a difference. They need to regularly emphasize the reasons why drugs are dangerous, though they may seem all fun and games at first.

So how do you recognize the tell-tale signs of drug use? What do you do if you suspect your teen is using drugs?

Answers to these and other similar concerns can be found in the following report.


8 Early Signs of Drug Use in Teens

     1. Changes in attitude

Sean Grover, psychotherapist, author, and public speaker with 20 years of work experience with adults and children emphasizes that teens who misuse substance may start to behave differently.

They will begin to argue with you or their siblings and other family members and exhibit frequent mood swings and anger lash outs.

A teen who is using drugs may begin to stay out past their curfew and deny home rules. Of course, some of these attitudes may coincide with what is considered a normal teen behaviour, but not all of them.

For example, if they are constantly asking for more money that they get or are not at home for prolonged periods of time, something isn’t right and you need to react.

Make sure you pay attention to physical symptoms of drug use such as red eyes, sniffing, changes in appetite, slow or fast speech, and poor coordination as well.

     2. Emotional changes

With certainty, mood swings and emotional instability are not uncommon in teenagers. But, when there is a substance use involved, these emotional problems are emphasized.

But, not every emotional change in your teen means they’re using drugs- sometimes, this may signal a mental health problem so you need to be extra careful.

Talk to a teen who is withdrawn, depressed or secretive because they may point to some drug-related activity. Also, being high could make them restless and excited.

Although it can be really challenging to pinpoint the reasons for your teen’s attitude at a specific moment, it remains pivotal to observe them all the time. This will help you recognize changes better and react appropriately.

     3. Changes at school and at home

Sometimes, when a teen is using drugs, they may have a drastic decline in grades or skip classes. Moreover, if some of their teachers have contacted you about possible intoxication during school, it is crucial to address the situation.

Check his/her room and their possessions for drug paraphernalia such us aluminium foil, rolling papers, pipes, small bags, wrappers, etc. They may also skip meal times or sneak out at night.

In case of insufficient money to purchase drugs, teens may resort to stealing stuff from home to sell, including prescribed meds and alcohol.

If you notice some of these signs, calmly and kindly talk with your teen and tell them you need to know the reasons for such behavior.

Tell them you can’t control them and you don’t want to, but they need to know the consequences of their attitude such as becoming addicted, getting caught with drugs by the police, harming themselves, etc.

Explain why you need to work together to improve the situation. Remember, teens who use drugs may often lie, even when they know they will get caught. This is because they haven’t yet developed the ability to think about consequences.

     4. Appearance and hygiene issues

As the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids advises parents, if you notice some changes in your child, don’t let the fear of being wrong, stop you from raising your concerns.

And, most importantly, ask direct and concise questions like: ‘Have you been using drugs or drinking alcohol’ and ‘Why have you been neglecting your personal hygiene?’

Children with drastic changes in the care of their appearance and hygiene may be using drugs or struggling with some mental health problem. They may also adopt an unusual dressing habit.

Teens who use drugs may often be lethargic, have headaches, sleep very little and possibly be away from home for days.

If you notice such changes in your teen, communicate with them, but avoid judgment, yelling, and blaming. Use compassionate and understanding questions. If your teen admits drug use, don’t overreact – what matters is getting them to talk and helping them.

Show support and love. If they still deny it, strongly reassure them about your concerns and that their well-being is at stake.