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Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use

What are the signs that your teen is using drugs? These are not easy to detect because they often overlap with very common teenage behaviours such as changes in sleeping habits, changes in hobbies, and changes in mood or attitudes. So, are there more specific things to look for?

Although they may not necessarily be signs or symptoms of drug use, keep an eye out for signs of depression, withdrawal, carelessness with grooming or hostility. Other signals might be changes in school performance, ability to socialize with friends, or active engagement in sports or other activities.

Things to watch for:

  • Changes in friends
  • Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, or declining grades
  • Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
  • Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors
  • Subtle changes in conversations with friends, e.g. more secretive, using "coded" language
  • Change in clothing choices: new fascination with clothes that depict drug use
  • Increase in borrowing money
  • Evidence of drug paraphernalia such as pipes, rolling papers, etc.
  • Evidence of use of inhalant products (such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, common household products); Rags and paper bags are sometimes used as accessories
  • Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • Missing prescription drugs--especially narcotics and sedatives

This list is meant to provide you with behavioural cues that something harmful could be occurring with your teenager - and it may involve drugs. If you think you see some or many of these changes occurring in your teenager, you may want to consult resources such as your family physician, pediatrician or your teenager's school counselor. Continue to talk with your teenager about your observations and ask them for an explanation about what may be causing these changes in behaviour.