Teen Drug Use Warning Signs

Parents Need to Know the Signs of Teen Drug Abuse

Teenager (16-18) smoking hand rolled cigarette
Barbara Peacock/The Image Bank/Getty Images

There are lots of different drugs available to today's teens. So while a parent may assume "glassy eyes" are the most common indication of drug use, not all drugs have that side effect. So it's important to know about the most common warning signs that could signal your teen is experimenting with drugs.

Here are just a few potential red flags to be on the look out for:

Signs in the Home

  • loss of interest in family activities
  • disrespect for family rules
  • withdrawal from responsibilities
  • verbally or physically abusive
  • sudden increase or decrease in appetite
  • disappearance of valuable items or money
  • breaking curfew
  • not telling you where they are going
  • constant excuses for behavior
  • spending a lot of time in their rooms
  • lies about activities
  • finding the following: cigarette rolling papers, pipes, roach clips, small glass vials, plastic baggies, remnants of drugs (seeds, etc.)

Signs at School

  • sudden drop in grades
  • truancy or always being late to school
  • loss of interest in learning
  • sleeping in class
  • poor work performance
  • not doing homework
  • defiant of authority
  • poor attitude toward sports or other extracurricular activities
  • reduced memory and attention span
  • not informing you of teacher meetings, open houses, etc.

Physical and Emotional Signs

  • changes friends
  • smell of alcohol or marijuana on breath or body
  • unexplainable mood swings and behavior
  • negative, argumentative, paranoid or confused, destructive, anxious
  • over-reacts to criticism acts rebellious
  • sharing few if any of their personal problems
  • doesn't seem as happy as they used to be
  • overly tired or hyperactive
  • drastic weight loss or gain
  • unhappy and depressed
  • cheats, steals
  • always needs money, or has excessive amounts of money
  • sloppiness in appearance

Parents, Don't Dismiss the Warning Signs

It can be tempting to minimize or dismiss the warning signs sometimes. And almost every potential red flag can likely be explained away by something else.

Certainly, not every teen who does something on this list is going to be doing drugs, but every teen who does drugs does things on this list.

If you find that some of these warning signs fit your teen, take a look at the whole picture.

Become more involved and find out what he's doing, where he's going and who he's with. A closer look at your teen's daily activities will give you further clues into whether there's a reason for concern.

What if My Teen Is Using Drugs

If you suspect your teen is using drugs, start by talking to your teen.

Source for signs: CDC.

Was this page helpful?