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Teen Drug Use Warning Signs

Parents Need to Know the Signs of Teen Drug Abuse


Teenager (16-18) smoking hand rolled cigarette
Barbara Peacock/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Quick Links: Teen Drug Use Resources | Quiz: Is Your Teenager Using Drugs?

Teen drug use is a big problem for today's family. Parents of this generation need help to sort through the fast pace world that their teen lives in where they can get drugs online or meet up with someone who is dealing drugs via Facebook messages. And make no mistake, when your teen abuses drugs, the problems it creates will affect the entire family - breaking it apart down to its core. Self-esteem issues for the user's siblings and parents, life-skills not being taught, it is impossible for your teen to look to a future, medical problems and possible problems with the law just to name a few.

Please note that even though some of these warning signs of drug abuse may be present in your teen, it does not mean that they are definitely abusing drugs. There are other causes for some of these behaviors. Even the life stage of adolescence is a valid reason for many of them to exist.

On the flip side of that, do not ignore the warning signs of teenage drug abuse. If six of these signs, (not all in the same category), are present for a period of time, you should talk to your teen and seek some professional help.

Signs in the Home

  • loss of interest in family activities
  • disrespect for family rules
  • withdrawal from responsibilities
  • verbally or physically abusive
  • sudden increase or decrease in appetite
  • disappearance of valuable items or money
  • not coming home on time
  • not telling you where they are going
  • constant excuses for behavior
  • spending a lot of time in their rooms
  • lies about activities
  • finding the following: cigarette rolling papers, pipes, roach clips, small glass vials, plastic baggies, remnants of drugs (seeds, etc.)

Signs at School

  • sudden drop in grades
  • truancy or always being late to school
  • loss of interest in learning
  • sleeping in class
  • poor work performance
  • not doing homework
  • defiant of authority
  • poor attitude toward sports or other extracurricular activities
  • reduced memory and attention span
  • not informing you of teacher meetings, open houses, etc.

Physical and Emotional Signs

  • changes friends
  • smell of alcohol or marijuana on breath or body
  • unexplainable mood swings and behavior
  • negative, argumentative, paranoid or confused, destructive, anxious
  • over-reacts to criticism acts rebellious
  • sharing few if any of their personal problems
  • doesn't seem as happy as they used to be
  • overly tired or hyperactive
  • drastic weight loss or gain
  • unhappy and depressed
  • cheats, steals
  • always needs money, or has excessive amounts of money
  • sloppiness in appearance

Parents, Don't Dismiss the Warning Signs

I know there are parents out there that will dismiss these warning signs because they feel that they are too general. For instance, every teen tries to get away with not telling their parents about where they are going and what they will be doing. Teens need independence, you can't know everything they are doing. So, when teens do that does that mean they are doing drugs? Could be. And that is the point to this list. Not every teen who does something on this list is going to be doing drugs, but every teen who does drugs does things on this list. If you find that some of these warning signs fit you teen, take a look at the whole picture. Become more involved and find out what they are doing, where and with whom. You should look at it as an indicator to start paying more attention. Then you will be able to see if your teen is doing drugs because things will become more clear to you once you open yourself up to the possibility.

What if My Teen Is Using Drugs

So, what do you do if you figure out your teen has been using drugs after reading this list of warning signs? You plan to talk to your teen about their drug use. You try to remain calm, asserting that you are there for them but they will need to take steps to becoming drug-free. If the first conversation doesn't workout, take some time and try again. If the problem is too big for you to handle alone, seek help from a drug counselor or drug program for families of drug users. Your community phone book will have a listing or call one of these hotlines.

Quick Links: Teen Drug Use Resources | Quiz: Is Your Teenager Using Drugs?

Source for signs: CDC.
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Is Your Teen Using Drugs?

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