Drug use is a serious problem that affects many young people, and it’s understandably a major cause for concern for any parent. It can also be a particularly delicate subject to bring up with teenage kids, so knowing exactly what to look out for can help to prevent any unnecessary conflicts.
It’s important to note that most teenagers will exhibit one or two of these characteristics at some point, but few of them will be involved with drugs. However, if you think your son or daughter does have a problem, it’s best to find out for certain and then seek help as soon as possible. Here are seven of the telltale signs to be on the lookout for.
Starting to take drugs often coincides with moving in new circles. If your teen suddenly breaks off contact with their old friends and hangs out with a new crowd instead, you should definitely take note, but don’t worry too much – it could well be entirely innocent. Wearing clothes associated with drug culture can also be a sign of trying to fit in with a new group of friends who also dress in this way.
A teen who suddenly starts to smoke openly is a major warning sign. They may feel that smoking in front of you is acceptable because their other habits make it seem insignificant, or because all of their friends smoke. People who smoke are far more likely to take drugs than those who have never touched a cigarette. They are also more likely to be influenced by drug-related peer pressure from their smoking friends.
If you notice any prescription drugs or alcohol going missing, it could be an indicator that something is amiss. For many young people, alcohol and drugs go hand in hand, while addiction to prescription drugs is only one small step away from addiction to illegal drugs. The signs are often subtle, like spirits tasting weaker than normal as they’ve been watered down to replace the stolen alcohol.
Young people who take drugs on a regular basis are unlikely to be able to prevent their habit from spilling over into their academic life. Truancy, rapidly falling grades, and behavior problems at school should all set alarm bells ringing. Whether or not drugs are the cause, it’s a serious problem that should be addressed as soon as possible.
Weight loss is associated with some drugs such as methamphetamine, but can also stem from other problems such as bullying. Whatever the cause, extreme weight loss – more than you would expect to lose on a diet – is worth looking into for your teen’s sake. Bloodshot eyes and poor sleep patterns can also be indicators of drug use, but again, there are many other possible explanations, so try not to jump to any conclusions.
The teenage years are characterized by ongoing hormonal and emotional turmoil, so personality changes are nothing unusual, but they may sometimes be a sign of something more serious. A normally relaxed teen who suddenly becomes anxious and restless or a previously outgoing teen who turns secretive and withdrawn is likely to have a problem of some sort, whether or not it’s drug-related. Drug abuse can also often lead to extreme mood swings, anger with family (often due to the user’s own feelings of guilt), and excessive paranoia or suspiciousness, all of which are signs to look out for.
Some drug use is easily detected by smell, either on the breath or in the room, or by reddened eyes and other physical signs. As a result, many teenagers will use copious amounts of incense or air freshener in their room, or use mints and eye drops in an attempt to conceal their habit. If you find things like hairspray, rags, paper bags, or nail polish pushed into a bin or hidden somewhere, it could indicate that they are being used as inhalant products and accessories.
Remember, if your teen does show any of these signs, it’s not a foregone conclusion that they’re definitely using drugs, but you should certainly take note and keep an eye on them, hopefully without arousing their suspicions. If you’re fairly sure that your teen is taking drugs, it’s important to talk to them about it and to offer your support. They may think that they’re grown up, but they still need your help – if they don’t have you on their side, things might only get worse.