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Signs of drug usage in teens – A parents guide

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All parents have some sort of hopes and aspirations for how their child’s life will turn out. Finishing school, getting a job, meeting a partner, getting married, then having children of their own and so on. At the end of the day though, all any parent REALLY wants for their child is to be happy. That’s the dream. But, along with dreams also come nightmares. Will my child fall in with the wrong crowd? Will they experiment with drugs, or worse, become an addict or even die prematurely from an overdose? Not only that, if this nightmare was to eventuate, would I even know about it before it’s too late?

Of course, not every child turns this nightmare into a reality. Many, many people go through life without even experimenting with drugs. But, especially in this day and age, most parents do have these awful thoughts in the back of their minds. It is definitely not a good subject to dwell on, in fact, it would be horrendously scary! However, it is always good to be aware of specific signs and behaviours that may occur. And yes, you CAN do this unobtrusively without looking like an overbearing or suspicious parent. If in the event your child is on drugs, the last thing you want is for them to believe you are invading their space, or worse, not trusting them.  If you recognise one or more of the red flags listed below though, it’s time to seek help.

In light of all listed below, please note that some or all of the following behavioral aspects can actually be typical of some teenagers. As much as we would like them to be, not all teens are well behaved, I know I wasn’t! That is why all that is listed include the word ‘changes’ in their titles. Also, this is not a diagnostic tool, but rather a set of warning signs to watch out for.



  • Change of social circle, dropping long term friends for a new group
  • Sneaking out or not coming home at night
  • Becoming angry, aggressive or depressed when they previously were not
  • Losing interest in things they once loved
  • Starting to skip school
  • Frequently asking for money or stealing
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Making excuses for things or telling outright lies
  • Isolating themselves from family



  • Unusually tired all the time
  • Overly sweating
  • Dramatic drop in weight loss
  • Abnormal skin abrasions or bruises
  • Constricted pupils
  • Higher or lower than usual heart rate
  • Potential nausea or vomiting
  • Potential hallucinations



  • Aggressive behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Inhibition loss
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Withdrawn behavior


If in the event you suspect one or more of the listed above, that says to me that its well overdue to get the person in question some help.  In saying that, all symptoms may be different per the addiction the specific person has.  For example, each drug comes with different afflictions as to how it affects one’s physical and mental well-being.  Someone who has alcoholism often experiences depression when they drink excessively.  Someone who has taken meth will be more than likely be a lot more talkative and effusive than when they are sober. A person who smokes weed is likely to be happy yet slow acting or lazy.

My teen fits all the above – now what?

First thing you MUST remember, is that while everything above is a fitting guideline, it is still a guideline. As aforementioned, some of those behaviours can easily be attributed to being a teenager.  Teenagers are often secretive, sullen and ignorant compared to the way they acted as children. Only their friends matter, and parents or relatives are more than likely not seen as embarrassing.  If in the event you have taken a lot of the above into account, that is when it is definitely worth calling upon someone for some help on what to do next, your local or trusted family GP would be a very good option for the person of choice.

Second thing, if you believe that your child or teenager is on drugs, don’t try to deal with it on your own.  Not that you CAN’T, but you will definitely want to have a sounding board of your own so to speak. From what I’ve heard, it isn’t easy when your child thinks you are just trying to invade your privacy and calls you every name under the sun!

Third thing, and this is probably THE most important one of all to remember, never, EVER, blame yourself.  If your child/teen decided to take drugs, there wasn’t anything you could have done to stop it.  Now that you know (or think it could be possible), you can step in and try to help them quit. Don’t ever doubt yourself as a parent, and what you could or should have done, just do the best you can now that you know what is going on to help your child get their life back on track and to normal.  There are many programs and places out there for people needing this sort of specialized help, and Salt Recovery House is the best for this.  With years of experience in every one of their staff, no one can look after your teen better.


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