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Worried Your Kids Might Be Taking Drugs? Signs to Look For

By Ruth Harrison

Updated December 07, 2012

A Mom Confronts Her Teen About Drug Use

A Mom Confronts Her Teen About Drug Use


While kids will always experiment with new things and push the boundaries, parents naturally worry that this will extend to smoking and even worse, drug taking; it is not as uncommon as you might think, with around a third of high school kids using marijuana at least once each year. Although kids are often able to hide this secret from their parents, there are certain signs to look out for that are strong indicators that they might be taking drugs. However, it's important to bear in mind that these indicators may have another explanation, so talk to your child before jumping to conclusions; having an open conversation with them is the first step to helping them quit.

Be Vigilant

Use your senses to detect whether your child might be taking drugs . Visible signs to look out for in your child include blood-shot eyes, extremely large or small pupils, or their gait may have become unsteady; though numerous medical causes could explain these too. Look out for items used as drug paraphernalia such as rolling papers and pipes. Should you snoop through their room? Be watchful for any items left out accidentally on show. You might also be able to smell tobacco or marijuana on their breath, clothes or in their car; be suspicious of overuse of pleasant smells such as breath fresheners, heavy perfume or a teen that always seems to be washing their clothes, as they could be doing this to hide another smell from you. Listen as well. Changes such as in a child who was previously chatty, but becomes withdrawn, can indicate something significant has changed in their life. If their speech changes, such as becoming slow, quick or slurred, this could be the effect of drug use on their nervous system. However, emotions such as anxiety can also impact on speech. So again, be careful about discussing this with your child. A change in their conversations with friends, for instance being more secretive when talking to them while home or using coded language, could indicate they have something to hide.

Changes in Behavior

Although changes in behavior are inevitable during the teenage years, there are certain behaviors you shouldn't ignore, as they might signal that they are taking drugs . If your child was previously a high achiever at school, but their grades have slipped, homework is being left undone, they are starting to miss school, and no longer attend their after school clubs, these could possibly be signs of drug use, which can impact on mood and motivation. Be mindful, however, bullying or other problems at school could also be the cause of these kinds of behavior changes. Another sign might be a sudden change in their social circle; although friendships do change, if they suddenly drop their previously good friends for a new crowd, particularly if they are older, don't ignore any uneasy feelings that you have about the new friends. If your child suddenly starts lying and their answers to questions about where they've been and what they've been doing don't seem plausible, consider the possibility that dabbling in drugs might be the reason. Equally if items start to go missing from the home such as money or jewelry, they might be using these items to pay for cigarettes and drugs.

Changes in Appetite and Energy Levels

Teenagers might be known for getting sudden bursts of appetite or having days where they do very little, but if these behaviors relating to food intake and activity levels become a consistent pattern, it could be a sign that they are using drugs. Although increased appetite - usually called "the munchies" - is often associated with marijuana use, the desire to eat can be suppressed when taking amphetamine, methamphetamine or cocaine. However, it's not unusual for body conscious teenage girls to restrict their food intake to remain slim. Extreme tiredness and spending much longer sleeping each day can be a sign of opiate use, though conversely, bursts of activity are seen with cocaine and methamphetamine.

Ruth Harrison writes health articles on behalf of a free stop smoking resource. She strongly believes that parents can play a more powerful role in stopping drug addiction among teens if they are armed with all the facts.

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