How to Identify Teen Drug Use

As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child from harm, yet when it comes to drug use, it’s not always easy to spot the signs. Maybe you’ve found some suspicious items in their bedroom or perhaps they’ve been acting differently. Regardless of why you’re concerned, it’s important to recognize substance use in your teen and get them help quickly if your suspicions prove correct. Use this as a guide to help you identify if your teen may be using drugs so that you can address the issue head-on.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use in Teens

Some common signs of teen substance use disorder are often displayed in changes in behavior, appearance, sleep, and attitude. 

Changes in Behavior 

One of the first things you might notice is a change in your teen’s behavior. If you notice a sudden change in their behavior as listed below, it’s worth investigating further.

is my teen addicted to drugs?
  • Changes in academic performance or poor grades
  • Behavior problems at school and home
  • Conflicts with others
  • Skipping school 
  • Quitting sports, clubs, activities, or hobbies
  • New friend groups and ending of old friendships
  • Engaging in illegal activities
  • Increased secrecy and/or demands for more privacy
  • Long periods of unexplained disappearance
  • Lack of respect for authority
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Slurred speech or fast talking
  • Constant scratching 
  • Excessive use of perfume or room sprays

Changes in Appearance or Physical Health

Another symptom of teen drug use is a change in appearance. While these changes alone don’t necessarily mean drug use, they could be an indication that something is going on that warrants your attention. 

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated or pinpoint pupils
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Neglecting personal grooming/hygiene 
  • Dressing differently
  • Wearing long sleeves even when it’s warm outside
  • Wearing more makeup, getting piercings or tattoos 
  • Changes in appetite
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Constant thirst
  • Nosebleeds or consistent runny noses
  • Shakiness
  • Incoordination
  • Teeth clenching or jaw wiggling

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Substance use can also cause changes in sleep patterns. If your teen is suddenly staying up later or sleeping more during the day, it could be a sign that they’re using drugs. You might also notice them having trouble sleeping or appearing tired all the time.

Changes in Mood and Attitude

Drug use can also lead to changes in mood and attitude. If your usually happy and outgoing teen suddenly becomes withdrawn and angry or displays any of the following, it could be a sign that they’re using drugs. 

  • Mood swings 
  • Defiance and hostility
  • Angry outbursts
  • Periods of high excitement or nervous energy
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • More highs and lows in energy and mood
  • Lying or manipulation
  • Paranoia

Early Detection of Illicit Drug Use in Teens

If you notice any of these changes in your child, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with them. Talk about what you’ve observed and why you’re concerned. If they deny using drugs, don’t automatically assume they’re lying—there could be another explanation for the changes you’re seeing. However, if they confess to using drugs, it’s important to get them help as soon as possible. One method of discovering teen drug use and determining what assistance your child may need is a brief, online SBIRT screening. Remember, you’re not alone—there are resources and support for teen drug use in Mississippi available to help you through this difficult time. Don’t hesitate to reach out!