How-To find out if your teenager is using drugs

How-To find out if your teenager is using drugs

Teenager is using drugs: I had this very good friend in college. We were almost like twins joined in the hip. Always together.

And like any friends we had our own secrets and we supported each other, hell, or high waters.

And one of the secrets that we had was that he used drugs. Mainly sleeping pills. And was neck deep in its usage.

As expected of a friend of that age my loyalties where to keep our secret a secret and support each other.

Till one day, late at night I get a call saying that he overdosed himself and was no more.

Decades later when I now think of this incident. The only thing I can think of today is not as a person who lost a close friend. But more as a mother of teenage kids.

And how his mother would have felt and if only she knew secret well before time. That something could have been done to save my friend (her son).


  • Introduction
  • Few Reasons for teenager using drugs
  • Some common broad tell-tale signs that a teenager is using drugs
  • How to find out if your teenager is using drugs
  • Some suggestion for prevention
  • Next Steps: If you find out your teen is using drugs
  • Conclusion
  • Disclaimer


Nowadays, drugs are one of the things parents worry about most. Is if they teenager is using drugs.

Knowing if your child is taking drugs is important to being able to provide help on time.

People between the ages of 11 and 21 have a distorted perception of risk. It explains why they tend to behave in a specific way, but then regret it when it is too late.

Parents of children with addictions say it is not easy to recognize the signs in time.

Few Reasons for teenager using drugs

Peer Pressure: Especially after the age of 13-15, friendship becomes more important for the young than his family. So, when friends put pressure on. Or a need to ‘Fit In” can get the teenager to try using drugs.

Loneliness: There is loneliness in the background of this. The feeling of loneliness in the crowd is a second important factor in turning the person towards substance.

Trying to be an adult: Many teens sometimes try drugs such as alcohol or drugs. Drinking alcohol can be a way to test what it is like to be an adult.

Some teens are more attracted than others to being adults. They start experimenting earlier and are therefore more easily dependent.

Other reasons can be curiosity, Boredom, stress, and anxiety and means to escape reality, to name a few.

Some common broad tell-tale signs that a teenager is using drugs

When a person becomes addicted unfortunately all that he can think about is the substance that he needs to consume.

The addiction starts to rule their life and they are not able to think of anything else or any other material or other pleasures of life.

They start to spend more time with the substance they are using and now addicted to. When there is no substance, he feels bad and is in crisis. And if for some reason they are not able to procure the substance, there are withdrawal symptoms. There is excessive mental struggle.

The first thing that we feel is, ‘My child is distracted, his personality has changed’.

Few more usually common things that we can see are …

  • The teenager does not leave the room for a long time.
  • They tend to stay in the bathroom for a long duration.
  • Your kid starts to lie. Or not give direct or clear answers.
  • If they are raised to be independent. Then they tend to prepare going on a long journey. Mostly alone.
  • Your teen does not inform you on their whereabouts and at times says goodbye, leaves letters.
  • You find your kid begin to have flu or cold often.
  • The child becomes more intense. When direct questions are asked.

Most of the time the gut feels of parent’s kick in. That something is not going well.

Situations like this show that things are not going well. In such cases, direct questioning, shouting, scolding, and threatening can only make matters worse.

In such cases, it is necessary to take it with us instead of confronting it and try to open the problems by gentle reaching out and talking.

How to find out if your teenager is using drugs

Teenage is a stage which is very hormonal. It is subject to lot of fluctuation and erratic behaviour in children.

That coupled with a drug use might be difficult for any parent to decode.

Many of what we outlined as signs of drug abuse can just be hormonal issues that your child is facing as coming of age passage.

Whatever I have listed below is what I have found in my quest to gather information on how to find if your teenager is using drugs.

But my main submission to you as parents is that these are just guidelines. These outlines can help you in exploring further and looking for signs of drug use.

However, they are not fool proof. If you as a parent feels that something is not right in all probability something is not right. Go by your gut and parental instinct and act on it.

To find if your teenager is using drugs parents can go through these steps:

  1. Physical signs to watch out
  2. Your child has red eyes, his eyelids are drooping, and his eyes are off.
  3. His pupils are dilated or contracted.
  4. Her complexion is abnormally pale.
  5. He neglects both his personal hygiene and his appearance.
  6. You notice a change in his sleeping habits.
  7. He is also prone to insomnia and / or naps at unusual hours.
  8. He often suffers from small ailments because his resistance decreases.
  9. A runny nose, persistent coughing, and chest pain are the most common symptoms.
  10. It is also common for a sudden increase or loss of occur on an ad hoc basis, often accompanied by weight loss.
  • Your teenager’s character changes
  • You are witnessing unexplained mood swings.
  • Your child has a depressive tendency; he is anxious and always in a bad mood.
  • In most cases, he reacts exaggeratedly to simple requests.
  • He shows less and less consideration for others and tends to withdraw from family life.
  • He loses his interest in activities he used to enjoy.
  • You notice in him a latent boredom, indifference, and a sort of lethargy.
  • He is often absent from the house, without explanation.
  • Your Teen’s friends and associates
  • In most cases, close buddies walk away or are far away, sometimes against their will.
  • Your child has new friends whom he absolutely does not want to introduce to you.
  • He often has secret telephone conversations.
  • Sometimes people call and refuse to identify themselves or hang up when you answer.
  • Some of his personal items disappear

A drug addict must get the money to buy the stuff he needs. This translates, in the case of a child or adolescent who has no income, into the sale of their personal items.

Thus, you note the disappearance of certain clothes (in particular the sporting goods, branded items such as belts, watch, shoes etc.), electronic items that your kid possess like a radio, PlayStation, mobile, or even jewelry.

When questioned about it. You get vague reasons and explanations. Such occurrence of things belonging to your teenager increases.

Left unchecked you will also notice things from the household also meet the same fate.

All this may point to your teenager trying to raise money to purchase and use drugs.

  • New personal accessories appear in your teen’s possession / room.

I have listed below some of the main utensils commonly used when using narcotics.

This is a guideline basis what I have seen and heard and may not be an exhaustive list.

This can give you indicators to explore further to confirm a doubt about your child’s drug addiction.

  • Cigarettes partly crumbled.
  • Metal clips for joint with blackened or tarred ends.
  • Paper for rolling cigarettes.
  • Powders, seeds, leaves, vegetable substances, mushrooms.
  • Capsules or tablets of unknown origin.
  • Pipes, pipe accessories, filters.
  • Scale, kit for chemical experiments.
  • Small spoons, straws, razor blades, mirrors.
  • Plastic bags or small glass bottles.
  • Knives with burnt tip.
  • Propane torch.
  • Behavior changes:

There may be some behavioral changes due to drug use.

However, the unfortunate part is that all of these are also teenage behavior symptoms.

That is why you need to watch your child carefully.

  • Has difficulty to concentrating on attention.
  • The group of friends in the school and / or neighborhood may change.
  • Your teenager may seem slightly sleepy, sluggish, and tired.
  • Self-care may decrease; environment and friends may lose their former importance.
  • Differentiation can be observed in verbal communication.
  • It may be more introverted or more aggressive than before.
  • Changes in academic performance:
  • Most often there is a drop in academic performance, grades.
  • The addict’s immediate memory decreases, as does his ability to concentrate and pay attention.
  • He is no longer motivated, does not participate in sports or any school activities.
  • He dozes or dozes during lessons.
  • His absences or his delays are more and more frequent.
  • Generally, disciplinary issues arise, and you might be contacted by the school.
  • Pay attention to the scents

Drugs such as cigarettes or tobacco have a strong odor that sticks to everyone who uses them, as well as to their clothes.

Those who use it try to hide the smell with chewing gum and by often washing their hands.

Also, you can find the smell in his room, bathroom, Towels / bedsheets that your kid uses.

  • Excessive irritability

Hormone changes in teens often affect their mood, but those who use drugs are often have higher mood swings than an average teen in comparison.

Boys become more irritable and aggressive towards everything when they have withdrawal problems.

They isolate themselves and tend to distance themselves from others, especially their fathers.

This is to help them to use drugs without having to explain.

  1. They steal from the medicine cabinet

When someone begins to abuse drugs, they often experiment with different forms, which is why they say they “just try” them.

The family’s medicine cabinet is usually a source of medicines that you do not have to pay for.

Painkillers or popular cough medicines are popular alternatives.

In other words, have a close watch. If any of your medications start to disappear, it is time to take serious attention.

Some suggestion for prevention:

I have listed below few suggestions that I feel as a parent would be beneficial to you while you raise a teenager.

Educate yourself about drug issues

The very fact that you have read this far into a 3000+ words article shows that you already know what I am advocating in this point.

Teens can, know and have opinions about drugs. They like to believe in myths. They get influenced by friends and what they see and watch.

When they are in the mood to listen. And if they open to you. You must know what you are talking about.

You must be knowledgeable in the in subject to be able to debate with them and to punch holes in the myths.

Spread awareness!

Talk to your teen about drugs early. I would suggest right from the time they are about 8 yrs. old.

Or when you hear them ask first questions about it.

Discuss what different drugs are available, why you take drugs, how you become addicted and what the risks are.

It is better to de mystify it at a young age where there are little chances of them to become curious and use drugs.

And drill it down though examples, stories and question and answers and make them pledge aversion to drug use.

Be an example!

Show where you stand, but your teen will not listen to you unless you put your words into action.

If you, someone in the family or its vicinity uses any kind of drug, discuss why, and explain.

If you are caught in the addiction yourself. Then explain to them how it is affecting you and your struggles to try to kick off the habit.

While this is defiantly not a good example to set. It is far better talking to them and getting them to see the ill effects than having no conversation on the topic at all.

Teach your teen to say no!

Teenagers have difficulty recognizing that they are affected by peer pressure or that they are wrong.

Having a good and open relationship with your teenager makes it less likely that he or she will be misled.

Young people who receive confirmation and encouragement have better self-confidence and easier to say no.

I am not sure if this game I played with my son’s helped them in their teenage years or not. But I like to believe it did.

The game is called “NO”. I used to play with my kids when they were around 7 to 8 yrs. old. I would keep their favorite food item and they would have to resist me.

I would nudge them to eat it. They will have to say “No”. I would act the temptress and they should not fall for it.

I liked to believe it helped them build the mental strength to say ‘NO’ when the time came.

I once had my elder son when he was around 16 yrs. of age refer to this game. He told me proudly that he resisted his favorite brownie when he was very small. Cannot he resist the things his friends tell when he is so big now.

Know your teenager’s friends

Always try to get to know everyone your child is friends with. Invite to your home from time to time.

Even if you do not like a friend you like, talk to each other, and spend time together getting to know them. Their views and opinions. Open ended conversations open a lot about a person to you. 

There is a saying … Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.  So, they type of friends your teenage is moving around with. Their habits, mannerisms and outlook in life can be an early indicator to you.

Do not criticize!

If you come to know of friends of your teen are taking drugs. Be cautious but do not criticizing their friends.

Your teenager’s natural response will be to defend their friends and by doing so they might land up glorifying the habit.  

Instead, discuss why their teenager as to why they think their friends are doing it. Ask them how they can help their friends overcome it. This is an effective way where you can get your teen to come up with ideas to not do drugs.

Rather than criticism that can easily leads to defiance.

Engage your teen!

Encourage hobbies. Teens that exercise, join any association or have a hobby, often meet likeminded people in these places, socialize and are less likely to use drugs.

They say an Ideal mind is a devil’s workshop. So, a teenager left to themselves with lot of time at their disposal.

With little or no parental supervision. Tend to migrate to such activities. That just start as “fun”.

Engage them as they cross this stage. When they are older, it is easier to say no.

Next steps: If you find out your teen is using drugs

Do not overreact!

Most people who try drugs do not become addicted. This does not mean that it is okay to use drugs.

It is never possible to tell in advance who will become dependent.

Many teenagers do say no to drugs.

If you are in the unfortunate situation where you find out that your teenager is using drugs. Much that I understand that this will shatter your world.

The best thing to do at this stage is not to overreact. Such heavy reactions on a teen who is already facing issues and struggling over an addiction.

Can only make the teen to withdraw to their shell further on and not open to you.

Seek Help!

In case you found out that your teen is using drugs. Do not call in a crowd. Make a scene. Tell his close friends or elders and ask them to advice your kid. Or threaten or blackmail them.

All this will only make your teen feel more ashamed of themselves.

And take them more into a downward spiral. Where drug use will become their coping mechanism against the stress created.

Rather seek profession help. A neutral person who your teen need not face in day today walk of life. And encourage your teen to participate and let the professional take charge of the situation.


Prevention is always better than cure. So, with awareness, open lines of communication, keeping your kid engaged are some ways in which you can prevent an occurrence.

However, in the unfortunate case where your child has indulged and is indulging in the use of drugs.

While it will be horrifying. The best resort that we have as parents is to accept an acknowledge the situation.

Acknowledge that we have a problem at hand, and it is our children who are involved in it and we cannot disown them. And we would do everything in a power to help them overcome it.

Once you have acknowledged the issue at hand the next steps that we can do logically is seek and ask for help and guidance.

Help and guidance not necessary means only for your child who is trapped in the drug addiction.

It also is for the rest of the family members also. Right from grandparents, siblings so that they do not follow the same path and of course your spouse and yourself.

Getting more aware of the situation. Joining in support groups along with parents who are in similar situation as yourself. Give you strength that you are not battling the problem alone.

It might also give you the strength to carry on and some encouragement that there is always light in the end of the tunnel. 

God Bless!!


I like to make a disclaimer here. I am not a Psychiatrist / Doctor / medical professional and more about me or my team you can read in About Me page.

However, I am a mother growing 3 kids. Two of which are well into their teenage years.

I have personally seen up close friends who were victims of drug addiction with fatal consequences.

And have interacted and supported parents of my children’s’ schoolmates who are battling these issues.

I am a very concerned parent.

I have written this article, basis my experience, my talk with experts in this line and research on this topic. Things I have watched out for and been cognizant and implemented it in my life with my kids.

I like to emphasize that this is ONLY for knowledge sharing and information purpose. This is not a substitute for any medical or professional advice.

If you are feeling concerned and worried about your kid. Your instinct tells you to be concerned.

As a parent to parent. I would say trust your instinct. No one knows better than you as a parent to your child. It is best to reach out to a qualified practitioner to address your concern. And do this immediately. Time is one of the main essences in these matters.

If you wish to know more on our disclaimer. We have shared the link here for your easy reference. Disclaimer.

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