Spotting Drug Use in Teens: a Guide for Parents


Determining if your son or daughter is using substances can be difficult. Parents could see (and assume) that the symptoms are typical teen behavior. On top of that, these symptoms can appear as a mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression.

Apart from being challenging, some parents don’t want to confront the truth that their teenager is struggling with drug use. Denying the problem will only enable the individual to continue his/her use of substances and make the situation a lot worse.

If you believe that your child has a substance addiction, prepare to have a heart-to-heart conversation and (if necessary) look for trusted drug rehab clinics in the area to aid in his/her recovery. When spotting drug use, keep an eye out for the following signs:

Acting Secretive

Some teenagers are shy or introverted by nature, and this can be normal for an individual. When the person is becoming unusually quiet, however, take a closer look at his/her life. A few behaviors you should recognize are the following:

  • Hiding Social Media Posts – Your son or daughter, for instance, may update less often or even take out posts on social media. Since parents are unable to find deleted tweets or posts easily, they’re less likely to know what’s going on behind the scenes.
  • Locking Doors – Although giving your teen child some space is important, you should be wary if he/she is locking the bedroom door more often and not entertaining your requests for conversation.
  • Being Evasive with Responses – If you’re met with radio silence or receive vague responses to simple questions like “How’s your day?,” you might want to probe further.

Other Behavioral Changes

Besides being evasive, a teenager who’s misusing substances might begin to act differently to the point that it’s undermining relationships with other members of the family. The change in behavior depends on the drug they’re using. Some unusual actions you need to look out for are the following:

  • Extreme and unusual moodiness, such as frequently lashing out or arguing with siblings and other family members
  • Often staying out all night either alone or with friends
  • Asking for money always without explaining the reasons behind the request
  • Speaking too slow or too fast
  • Disappearing or not coming back home for extended periods

Changes in Hygiene and Health


A teenager going through puberty is in the process of finding out exactly how his/her body works along with the changes that come with growing up. Although the process of changing (and sometimes raging) hormones and fast growth can be daunting to a teenager, you should look out for specific signs related to drug misuse. Some health and hygiene changes that point to a substance addiction are the following:

  • Track Marks – Your son or daughter could be injecting drugs into his/her bloodstream if you find these marks on the arms.
  • Abrasions or Contusions – Seeing these frequently could indicate that your teen has sustained these injuries while he/she is under the influence of drugs.
  • Abnormal Sleeping Patterns – Getting little sleep followed by continuous days of slumber (or vice versa) is a sign that a young adult might be using substances.
  • Messy Exterior – Teenagers who disregard their overall appearance along with their personal hygiene mean that they’ve shifted their attention and energy towards other matters, such as using drugs.

Changes in School

Substance abuse goes beyond affecting an individual’s health. According to a report from The Open University, drug use could undermine a student’s academic performance. ; Opioids, for instance, could destroy the white matter in the brain. This, unfortunately, reduces the ability of the person to behave and decide properly in stressful situations.

Some red flags that you need to watch out for are the following:

  • The teacher has reached out concerning your son’s or daughter’s declining grades or attendance record
  • Your child has been skipping school frequently
  • You’re getting reports of possible intoxication or behavioral violations in the campus or the classroom

Changes around the House

Sometimes, teens leave behind evidence or subtle signs that they’re abusing substances. Examples include:

  • Drug paraphernalia that is hidden in everyday items, such as small containers, aluminum foil, small pipes, and candy wrappers
  • Missing items from home, presumably to sell them off for money or trade them for drugs
  • Missing medications from the medicine cabinet

Speaking with your son and daughter about suspected substance abuse can be daunting, but it’s a crucial step towards his/her recovery from addiction. When confronting your child, ask rather than accuse or blame. If your teen admits to the use of drugs, explain that you’re there to support them and help them overcome the challenges in their lives.

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