Is Your Teen Using Drugs? Some Red Flags to Look For

It is one of a parent’s fears – to discover that your teen has become hooked on drugs and is on a downward spiral towards self-destruction. A teen is especially vulnerable. He is struggling with his sense of self, is yearning for the acceptance of his peers and validation from loved ones and can be curious enough to try dangerous substances.

As a parent, you need to be alert for red flags and telltale signs that your teen may be dabbling into or is seriously hooked on drugs. Here are some of them:

Changes in behavior and appearance

–          Truancy and problematic behavior in school. Does your teen suddenly start getting bad grades? Are you receiving notes that indicate your child is earning detention time, has skipped class or got into a fight with a person in authority in school?

–          Withdrawal from normal routines and activities. Does your teen choose to stay inside his room, missing meals, refusing to go with you to social or family activities? Are you wondering why your teen is suddenly withdrawn, secretive and isolated? Mind you, this can be normal behavior, however, if this red flag accompanies many other red flags, it can point towards substance abuse problems.

–          Defiance of home rules. Is he violating his curfew? Failing to do assigned chores? Getting into fights with you or his siblings? Are there episodes of violence? He may start sneaking out and being more rebellious. He may also become more and more defensive about your questions regarding their behavior.

–          Loss of interest in hobbies and interests. The teen may exhibit a sudden lack of motivation and no longer indulges in hobbies and activities that previously interested him.

–          Change in friends. Your teen may start hanging out with a different crowd, friends that he is hesitant to introduce to you or to bring home. There may also be changes in his favorite hangouts.

–          Irritability and violence. If your teen is more highly strung as usual and can be irritable and violent even when unprovoked, he may be struggling with his addiction or may be dealing with withdrawal symptoms.

Physical signs

–          Changes in speech and appearance. This includes bloodshot eyes, eyes that may be contracted or dilated, slurred speech, sudden and drastic changes in weight, as well as drastic changes in sleep and eating patterns.

–          Poor grooming. He may also lose interest in personal hygiene and forget about taking baths and grooming himself. He may come home with unusual smells in his clothes or breath.

–          Physical evidence. If your child is using drugs, there may be physical indicators of this at home.

–          Use of fragrance to hide the smell of marijuana. Your child may start using air freshener or start burning incense in an effort to mask the smell of the drugs in his room.

–          Presence of drug paraphernalia. This includes butane lighters, bongs, Ziploc bags, crumpled pieces of tin foil or traces of powder residue.

Financial signs

–          Money issues. Your teen may start demanding for a higher allowance, or it may seem that he goes through his weekly allowance very quickly. He may also start borrowing money from loved ones and friends.

–          Loss of money and valuables inside the house. What happened to your expensive electronics that seemed to have disappeared? Is there some missing money? Your teen may start stealing from you and loved ones to support his drug habit.


These are just some of the warning signs you must be on the lookout for. Even as you are vigilant for these signs, work to open communications between you and your teen. You may also consider getting help such as enrolling him in a troubled teen program that specializes in substances abuse issues or enrolling him in a troubled teen residence program that offers drug rehabilitation treatment.


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