This is a question that we get frequently asked by concerned parents. The very nature of being a hormonal and emotional teenager can make it difficult for a parent to spot if their mood swings are due to them taking drugs or even developing drug addiction. However, there are some definite tell-tale signs to look out for:

A drastic change in terms of your child’s appearance or behaviour:
This is an indication that something is wrong. Rapid weight loss and neglecting their appearance could be reflective that they are in serious need of help and are signs that should never be ignored.

Asking to borrow money all the time, or money going missing from the house:
This could signal that they need money to finance a drug or alcohol habit

They avoid conversation or eye contact you when returning from being out with their friends: This avoidance could mean that they are trying to hide something from you, for example slurred speech or dilated pupils.

They seem to have changed their group of friends: maybe they are hanging out with an older group, or a group that acts and dresses differently to their usual set of friends.

They smell different: You may notice a smell that is alien to you, a smell of chemicals or alcohol, or it may be mints or perfume where they are trying to hide a smell from you after coming home from a night out.

They may go missing overnight, or regularly fail to turn up at an agreed time: It is common for people using drugs and alcohol to completely lose track of time whilst under the influence. Your teen may also go missing and not return home at all, sometimes for days on end, with a far-fetched story justifying their disappearance.

Their attitude towards their family and things they used to enjoy may have changed: you may notice that they become bad tempered, snappy, uncooperative and isolate away from family. They may have lost interest in activities they used to enjoy such as family time, sport or hobbies.

Finding suspicious substances or paraphernalia in their bedroom: maybe you have discovered a white powdered substance or pills wrapped in tin foil or a small plastic bag, or have found roaches (tips made from cardboard) in ashtrays. These are all signs of potential drug use and should be addressed immediately.

In short, any drastic change is a cause for concern. It’s normal for teenagers to undergo some personality changes, and for them to experiment with their look and friends, but if you no longer recognise your teen and the change is drastic, drugs and or alcohol may be involved. It may be time to seek some expert advice and assistance on how you can help them. Teenagers and drug addiction are two things that should not, but sometimes do go together. Seek help if you have concerns.

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