How Can I Tell If My Child Is Using Drugs?

It is difficult because changes in mood, attitudes, unusual temper outbursts, and changes in hobbies or other interests are common in teens.

Watch List For Parents

As a parent, you should look for signs of depression, withdrawal and hostility:

  1. Changes in friends
  2. Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, discipline problems at school, activity changes.
  3. Increased secrecy about possessions or activities.
  4. Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors.
  5. Subtle changes in conversations with friends, more secretive using coded language. “Four twenty” is a code name for a time to get high.
  6. Change in clothing choices: new fascination with clothes that highlight drug use.
  7. Evidence of drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, rolling papers.
  8. Evidence of inhalant products, such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, and other common inhalants.
  9. Bottles of eye drops, used to mask blood shot eyes, or dilated pupils.
  10. Missing prescription drugs - especially narcotics and stabilizers.

These changes often signal that something is going on and often that involves alcohol or drugs. Seek professional help in dealing with this problem.

Tips for Parents

Parents, you are the first line of defense when it comes to your child’s drug use or drinking. You are the difference maker!

  1. Set Rules - Let your child know alcohol and drug use is unacceptable in your family. Enforce stated consequences when family rules are broken.
  2. Know where your teens are and what will they be doing during unsupervised time.
  3. Talk to your child. Casually ask how things are going at school, with friends, and his plans for the future.
  4. Keep your teens busy, especially between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and into evening hours. Teens who are involved in constructive, adult supervised activities are less likely to use drugs than other teens.
  5. Take time to learn the facts about marijuana and underage drinking and talk to your teen about the harmful effects on young people.
  6. Get to know your child’s friends and parents. Make sure you know their rules and standards.
  7. Accept the role of a parent as your major responsibility. Children do not need you to be their friend, let others be their friend. You be the parent!

Order a copy

If you'd like to order free print versions of this and other literature, contact your state Drug Awareness chair.


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