Warning Signs of Drug Use

drug useIs your teen showing warning signs of drug use?  Have there been changes in your child’s health and behavior? Perhaps your child has become secretive and withdrawn ― or irritable and argumentative.. Maybe your teen has moved away from old friends and now has new friends that you haven’t met. Maybe you’ve found drugs or drug paraphernalia that your teen told you he or she was holding for a friend. These, and the following physical symptoms and behaviors, are warning signs that your teen is using drugs..


  • Fatigue
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Repeated health complaints
  • Frequent flu-like episodes, runny nose, chest pains, “allergy” symptoms, chronic cough
  • Dizziness
  • Red and glazed eyes
  • Widely dilated pupils even in bright light
  • Pinpoint pupils even in dim light
  • Impaired ability to fight off common infections
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Change in health or grooming
  • Weight loss


  • Personality change
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Irritability, anger, hostility
  • Irresponsible behavior
  • Poor self-image
  • Poor judgment
  • Feelings of loneliness, paranoia, or depression
  • Apathy or general lack of interest
  • Change in personal priorities

Family Relationships

  • Decreased interest in the family and family activities
  • Starting arguments
  • Negative attitude
  • Verbal (or physical) mistreatment of younger siblings
  • Breaking rules
  • Withdrawing from family
  • Secretiveness
  • Failure to provide specific answers to questions about activities
  • Personal time that is unaccounted for
  • Lying and dishonesty
  • Unexplained disappearance of possessions in the home
  • Increased money or poor justification of how money was spent

School Activities

  • Decreased interest
  • Negative attitude
  • Unexplained drop in grades
  • Irregular school attendance
  • Truancy
  • Discipline problems
  • Not returning home after school

Peer Relationships

  • Dropping old friends
  • New group of friends
  • Not bringing friends home
  • New friends who make poor decisions and are not interested in school or family activities
  • Changes to a different style in dress and music
  • Attending parties with no parental supervision

Consulting your family doctor is a good first step to rule out physical problems and to test your teen for drugs. Also, some of the warning signs can be an indication that your teen has suffered emotional trauma (e.g., bullying, dating violence, sexual abuse). A psychological evaluation is also helpful for ruling out a mood disorder (e.g., bipolar disorder). Another possibility is a reaction to prescribed medications that your teen is taking.

However, if you believe that your teen is using drugs, he or she probably is. Trust your instincts and consult with health professionals.

Most teens who try drugs or abuse drugs do not become drug addicts. But drug use in adolescence can put their mental, emotional, and physical health at risk. There is an increased chance that your teen can become addicted ― especially if abusing prescription drugs (e.g., Oxycontin, ADHD stimulant drugs), heroin, crack, or methamphetamine. Abusing drugs can put vulnerable teens at risk for ongoing drug abuse and addiction problems into their future.

Comments are closed.