Spotting the Early Signs & Symptoms of Teen Drug Use
Figuring out if your child is using drugs or alcohol may pose a challenge. Many of the very early signs and symptoms could just be typical teen or young adult behavior. Many may also be signs of mental health issues, including depression or anxiety.
If you suspect drug use amongst your teen, it is advised to err on the side of caution. Prepare to have a conversation where you can as your child directly, “Have you been drinking?,” or “Have you been using drugs?” While you may not want to hear a “yes” answer, being prepared in how you would respond will help lead to more positive outcomes.
What to Do
Use Your Sense of Smell
Have face-to-face conversations with your child when they come home from hanging out with their friends. Is there a smell of alcohol on their breath, clothing or hair?
Watch Their Eyes
When speaking to your child, look into their eyes. Are they red, or heavy lidded? Do they have constricted or dialated pupils? Are they having difficulty focusing?
How is your child acting after hanging out with friends? Are they unusually loud or obnoxious, or laughing hysterically? Are they unusually clumsy to the point of stumbling into furniture or walls? Are they queasy or stumbling to the bathroom?
Take a look at your teens digital behavior. Are they secretive about their phone use? Do you recognize frequent contacts?
Search Their Spaces
The limits you set with your child do not have to stop at their bedroom door. If you are concerned your child is drinking or using drugs, it is important to find out what is going on.
Look for places that vapes, alcohol or drugs could be stored:
- Inside small boxes such as jewelry boxes or makeup cases
- In a plant or buried in the dirt
- Between or inside books
- Under a loose floorboard
- In over-the counter medicine containers such as Tylenol or Advil
- Inside empty food containers such as candy bags, or chip bags
- Fake containers designed to conceal drugs – many look like soda cans.
Find Additional Resources for Crisis Help, Support Groups and Substance Abuse Treatement.