Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Signs of Drug Use

I am sure that many people wonder how parents miss the signs of drug use. That is a very fair question. In fact, before this happened to us, we wondered the same thing!

What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a significant overlap between normal teen behaviour and the signs of drug use.  When you start seeing the signs that are specific to drug use (stealing, poor hygiene, truancy, change in school, and lying), the addict tends to be well into an addiction where they will need intervention and treatment to get better. 

Karla McCardle, Academic Youth Worker (and all-around wonderful person), with the Strength Program, provided me with these visuals showing the Characteristics of Youth, Signs of Substance Use, and where they overlap.

With our son, we observed some of the signs in the overlap area but not all of them. We simply thought he was going through a teenage phase that he would grow out of. My Goodness, they were stressful times, though!

It wasn’t until high school that we started seeing the specific signs of drug use such as truancy and change in attitude toward school. At that time, he began to see an addictions counselor. We were at a loss of what to do. We worked with the school and addiction services but he continued on the path of self-destruction. We watched our bright and talented son go from being an academic student who was in French immersion and the band, to being a high school dropout.

As far as physical signs, I can tell you that youth who are using drugs can hide it very well, especially from parents as inexperienced as we were with drugs. There is a lot more information out there today so please find out as much as you can in order to avoid the nightmare of addiction in your home.

Physical warning signs of drug abuse
·         Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
·         Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
·         Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits.
·         Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
·         Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination. 

Behavioral signs of drug abuse

·         Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
·         Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it.
·         Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
·         Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
·         Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse
·         Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
·         Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
·         Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
·         Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
·         Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason.

If you are enjoying this blog, PLEASE SHARE it with your friends. Please don’t assume that you know which families need to see it, and which ones don’t. Addiction can happen to any family. It may already be happening to a family who is close to you but you don’t know because they are in the shadows. Take it from someone who spent years in the shadows, much to the shock of the people who know us! Please share on all your social media sites. You may save a life.

With many thanks for your support,


  1. Thank you for this advice.

  2. I particular like the diagram. It provide a good illustration on what overlapping signs would be about. This is very true. Everyone has been to being a youth and these characteristics have been present in a tolerable way. However, because drugs are just powerful enough to alter our way of thinking, these characteristics would go in an increasing level. It goes worse and worse if neglected until the person would find himself in a rehab centre.

  3. Thank you for this post. Substance abuse is really troublesome. It can affect our children's behavior that's why as early as we have detected the signs of addiction, an addiction intervention is essential for their recovery.

    1. You're welcome. Thank you for reading my blog. I absolutely agree that early intervention gives youth the best chance to overcome addiction.

  4. Substance abuse treatment Center is self-sufficient, just like all of you will soon be. ... You’re learning again, or in some cases for the first time, what self-confidence, pride and respect mean to you personally. ... I just wanted to stop by and tell you how proud I am of what you’re doing for yourselves. I believe that the only limits to your achievement are those that are self-imposed."


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