If you are a parent, learning that your child may be abusing drugs is probably one of your worst nightmares. However, keeping an eye out for signs of drug abuse and reacting promptly to any potential problem is the best thing you can do to keep your child safe. 

Before going forward, it’s also important to note that almost any of these signs could be caused by something other than drug abuse, like another mental or physical illness. But, any of these signs may be a reason to investigate further, especially if you’ve noticed signs from more than one of these four domains or they are severe enough to be worrisome, as a serious non-drug related problem may still require your attention. The earlier on a potential addiction is dealt with, the higher the potential for avoiding negative consequences, and the higher the potential for achieving lasting recovery, so being aware of these signs and able to take prompt action could make a life-changing difference for your child.

1. Noticing These Physical Changes

Some of the easiest changes to spot if your child has been abusing drugs may be physical ones. Many drugs, such as speed and opioids, are associated with weight loss, though it’s also possible that marijuana could instead cause weight gain from frequent bouts of “the munchies.” Marijuana is also associated with red eyes after use, while dilated pupils can be associated with a variety of drugs. Frequent upper respiratory infections or a runny nose could also be a sign that someone has been frequently snorting or smoking something.

You will also be able to pick up on the use of an injectable drug by noticing needle or “track marks.” These will usually be found on someone’s non-dominant arm, but people may also choose to inject into legs or other sites, especially if they have damaged the veins in their initial injection site or if they are trying to avoid detection. You might also notice your child wearing long sleeves in an attempt to hide or cover up these marks.

2. Noticing These Psychological Changes

Drug use can cause profound psychological changes, both while the person is on them as a direct result of intoxication, while someone is “coming down” off of them or withdrawing from them, or through the insidious effects that drug addiction has on someone’s overall life and mental health. 

The specific signs of intoxication depend somewhat on the specific drug, with stimulants, including cocaine, ecstasy, and certain prescription drugs (Adderall, Ritalin), bringing someone “up,” moving and talking faster than usual and appearing wired and jittery, but also possibly becoming aggressive and paranoid.

On the other hand, downers like opiates and benzo will create more of a lethargic effect, with someone seeming drowsy and out of it, potentially nodding off. Then, someone on hallucinogens might seem entirely out of touch with reality, seeing things that are not there or expressing odd or disjointed thoughts.

Some drugs have qualities of more than one class, such as marijuana—so users might exhibit a confusing mix of symptoms or traits, especially if they are abusing more than one drug. Children who have a problem with any drug might also appear anxious about getting their next “fix,” or may exhibit noticeable aftereffects of their drug abuse—for instance, appearing groggy and hungover after an alcohol bender or sleeping for a long period of time after a “crash” from stimulants.

3. Noticing These Changes In Habit And Lifestyle

You should watch out for changes in your child’s social circles, as they may stray from their usual group of friends to a group of fellow drug users, who may be unfamiliar to you. They may suddenly become isolated, secretive, and uncharacteristically uncommunicative, disappearing for long periods of time, neglecting even their most important relationships with you or other family members.

Some children who have been abusing drugs will also withdraw from even beloved hobbies and activities as all is subsumed into the quest for drugs, drugs, and more drugs. You may observe grades slipping in a child who was previously very conscientious, or a child may suddenly lose interest in their plans for college and for the future. 

4. Noticing These Drugs Or Paraphernalia

If you’ve noticed any of the above signs and are thinking of investigating further, searching your child’s room for drugs or paraphernalia might be a good place to start. Most street drugs come in powdered form, and marijuana will resemble green or brownish plant-like substances, and can also be baked into edibles. And, while most alcohol packaging is easily recognizable, a habitual drinker may take to storing liquor in other containers to avoid detection.

Then, there are prescription substances. You may notice pills going missing from your medicine cabinet, or find unmarked medications among your child’s belongings. However, while a baggy of pills may look less sinister than an illegal drug, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is less immediately dangerous.

Prescription drugs, especially when they are taken in combination, or are combined with alcohol, can contribute to lethal overdoses as well as spur life-altering addiction. Additionally, even certain over the counter medications, such as those containing dimenhydrinate, pseudoephedrine, or dextromethorphan, can be used to get high and can come with medical risks as serious as those posed by certain illegal drugs. 

Then, there are the supplies your child may be using to consume the drugs. Some of these items could be fairly obvious, like lighters, rolling papers, or syringes, but others are more discrete. Rolled up dollar bills or straws can be used to snort certain substances through, while razor blades or credit cards may be used to arrange them into lines. Spoons may also be used for melting certain substances so that they can be injected, while belts, shoelaces, or rubber bands may be used as makeshift tourniquets to tie off veins for injection.

Get Help For Your Child’s Drug Abuse

As alarming as it may be to realize that your child may be abusing drugs, there are plenty of steps you can take to prevent the situation from escalating and ensure that they get the help they need. To learn more about drug withdrawal, addiction, and treatment, call our hotline anytime at (833) 489-5577.

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