What are the signs and symptoms of drug use and abuse in teens?
There are several telltale signs of possible drug use or abuse in teenagers. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, sometimes volatile ups and downs of adolescent development and the red flags of substance abuse.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, sudden or extreme changes in personality, appearance, school performance, or extracurricular activities may indicate teen drug use. For example, a previously well-behaved, respectful teenager may become emotionally volatile, hostile, or violent. A teenager who is abusing drugs may also withdraw from family and friends, drop previously-enjoyed activities, and neglect schoolwork. Secretive behavior and lying to cover up drug use is also common. In addition, teen drug users may steal, ask for money, or sell valuable possessions in order to support their habit.
- Warning Signs of Teen Drug Use
- Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, or declining grades.
- Increased secrecy about possessions or activities.
- Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors.
- Subtle changes in conversations with friends (more secretive, using “coded” language).
- New friends.
- Change in clothing choices — new fascination with clothes that highlight drug use.
- Increase in borrowing money.
- Evidence of drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling papers.
- Evidence of inhaling products and accessories, such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, paper bags and rags, and common household products.
- Bottles of eyedrops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils.
- New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol.
- Missing prescription drugs — especially narcotics and mood stabilizers.
Source: National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign