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What Signs to Look for to Know If Your Child Is Taking Drugs

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Teenagers often explore drugs with friends

Teenagers often explore drugs with friends

Is My Child on Drugs?

Often as parents, we worry that our children may be influenced by some of the more undesirable aspects of life. One is drugs. Knowing how to tell if your child is using drugs will help you deal with the situation in a timely fashion.

Trust your instincts: You do know your child best and can sense changes in them. Open up conversations and tell your kids you're there for them, no matter what. They are, after all, the only ones who can tell you how they feel and what's been going on in their lives. After all, it may be a whole different issue than drugs altogether.

I cannot offer advice on how to best deal if you find out your child has used drugs. That is something that will be unique to every situation, but I do have a few tips:

  • Remove the child from the situation/environment where drug-taking is done.
  • Keep a constant eye on them; make it hard for them to leave your side to purchase or consume drugs.
  • Most of all, LOVE THEM.

General Information on Younger Teen Drug Use

Younger teenagers are more likely to be recreational users or indulge in an experimental attempt of drugs on an irregular basis. So for parents of young teens, your indicators will not come on a regular basis and only happen for a day or two. In older teens who may have access to the funds to become regular consumers, you may notice a more permanent change to their behaviour. Addiction can take a good hold of someone in approximately 2 weeks.

Extreme effect often seen in drug users.

Extreme effect often seen in drug users.

What Is an Indicator of Drug Use?

When a person uses drugs, particularly in the beginning, they will often display certain telltale symptoms when under the influence. These 'symptoms' are similar in most people, but will affect different people to varying degrees. Also note that different drugs have different symptoms.

Remember, a lot of the indicators can also exist alone or in conjunction with another indicator, even when the drug is not used.

The information contained within is to use only as a guide. Use your judgment. Maybe you just feel that the person is a bit 'off'. Talk to them, start a conversation, and don't assume you are correct.

Lines of cocaine, needles and joints

Lines of cocaine, needles and joints

Symptoms of Drug Use to Look For

  • Appetite. is one of the most recognizable symptoms of consuming drugs. Depending on which family of drug they have consumed, a person will either eat absolutely everything at one sitting or eat nothing at all, all day. Marijuana causes the "munchies' whereas speed will suppress near all appetites.
  • Weight. due to the above, a user's body weight can often dramatically fluctuate, more often losing excessive amounts of weight, very fast. Some other drugs like those purchased from the pharmacy can cause bloating with prolonged use, or weight gain from overeating.
  • Acne. As the body purges the drugs out of the system, it can cause acne. This combined with an almost obsessive habit of squeezing pimples will result in a scarred, pimply face.
  • Long Sleeves or Makeup. Those who are injecting will often wear long sleeves to cover the injection site scaring. Another way to hide injections sites is to use skin-colored makeup concealer cream over the wounds.
  • Sleep Disturbance. Excessive, deep sleep or no sleep at all. Often sleep disturbance will gradually return to normal cycles after a few days, in between the user may experience night sweats and restlessness.
  • Dilated Pupils. The pupil of the eye dilates or enlarge abnormally, irrespective of the light, whilst people are on certain drugs. Heroin or opioid-based drugs make the pupil of the eye a pin prick size and amphetamines cause the opposite effect.
  • Red Eyes. A telltale sign of a marijuana smoker is their red eyes, it will also occur when using a lot of other drugs to varying degree's.
  • Aggression. Amphetamines are well known for triggering aggressive behavior in users while under the influence. Those using opioid-based drugs will most likely only show aggression when they cannot access their drugs. Marijuana does not usually cause aggressive behavior unless the person is susceptible to schizophrenia.
  • Body Sores. Particular drugs cause an extreme, un-controllable itch under the skin, causing the user to obsessively scratch and pick at their body. Often identified as 'bugs crawling underneath the skin', depending on the amount consumed is often relevant to the body sores.
  • Itchy Nose. While directly under the influence of opiates, users will continually rub or scratch their nose. Rarely, they may also scratch palms and soles of feet.
  • Tooth Decay. Most drugs cause the saliva to dry up in the user's mouth resulting in tooth decay. If teeth do not receive high levels of dental care they will start to rot and fall out.
  • Secretive Behavior. Due to the secretive nature of the drug world, you will notice sly phone calls, messages from unfamiliar people, quick meetings with people in places like cars, houses and 'around the corner'.
  • Illegal Behavior. Due to the large cost of drugs, people whom are addicted or even regular social users can often turn to illegal behaviors to make extra money.
  • Money Troubles. Drugs cost a lot of money. Eventually a person's finances will show the evidence of regularly spending $25 for pot and any from $50 a hit to hundreds for other drugs i.e. heroin, speed, etc. Pills and acid vary from approx $10 to $25 depending on the type and strength.
  • Depressive or More-Sullen-Than-Usual Behavior. Now not only is it being an adolescent that results in sullen behavior, but drugs also. They are known to often increase mental illnesses and also cause them. Just don't get confused with normal teenage angst.
  • Falling Asleep. Called going on 'the nod', this is the ultimate high for opioid users. More common while doing slow-moving tasks i.e. watching TV, but can occur during a conversation, middle of the washing up, whatever. The person's eyes will slowly close then the head may also fall forward, giving an appearance of snoozing.

Wrap Up

Keep in mind, there is a neverending list of symptoms and indicators that users often display from consuming drugs. I have outlined the basic and most common of them to help you know if your child is using drugs.

Exceptions to the rules of drugs occur every day. A person who has greedily gobbled up copious amounts of drugs will continue on the path of life forever, yet a young boy who never touches drugs can break loose on a big occasion, and die in his bed overnight.

If you suspect your child is using drugs, then act. Being totally overbearing and over-reacting probably won't work, but YOU know your child best. Good luck.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Ann Carr from SW England on September 23, 2013:

Such a worry for any parents and, like me, grandparents. I have nothing to worry about as yet but my first granddaughter is coming up to 13; she's lovely and sensible but who knows what will happen at school or under peer pressure? Thanks for a useful, informative hub. Up +