How to recognize the signs of drug use

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Answered by: Candace, An Expert in the Living With Addiction Category
There are obvious signs of drug use that are played out in the media over and over again. If your teenager loses interest in school, grades begin to drop, new friends suddenly appear and he starts to withdraw from the family, it is possible he is dabbling in drugs. Then again, it could be that he simply changed friends and stopped liking school. When it comes to signs of drug use, there are several more concrete indicators you can watch for.



Short and sweet phone calls all day, every day. If your child is suddenly making or receiving dozens of phone calls each day and the calls last less than a couple minutes each, it is possible your child is seeking drugs. When a teen is into drugs, he typically makes as many calls as it takes to find them. He dials, the other person answers, the question is asked and the call is ended. Another warning sign is when your teen suddenly has to leave the room every single time a call comes in. No teen wants mom or dad to hear a drug deal going down.

A constant need for money is another red flag. Most teenagers love money. They get it from mom, head for the mall and come home proudly displaying new clothes, CD's and other items of interest. If your teenager is constantly badgering you for money and not coming home with something to show for it, there is a possibility the money is being spent on drugs.



Many parents who are concerned their teen is spending money on drugs resort to buying gift cards and refusing to give the teenager cash. This is a good idea unless your teenager figures out that drug dealers will often take gift cards as cash. If your teenager meets one of those dealers, the dealer will tell him exactly what store he wants the card from and in what denomination. Beware the teenager displaying several other signs of drug use, who suddenly develops a taste for gift cards from exact stores in exact denominations.

If things you purchase start to disappear, your teenager may be returning the items and using the proceeds to buy drugs. For example, you bought your teenager a new school wardrobe but you see him wearing last year's clothing on a daily basis. It may be that he doesn't like what your purchased. A quick search of his closet will reveal whether the clothing is still in the house. Drug users will take new items back to the store with or without the receipt. Many stores will provide a gift card for exchanges that do not have receipts and of course the gift card is currency at the drug dealer's house. If you suspect your teenager is using drugs, start buying his clothes at the Goodwill or thrift stores.

Irritability beyond normal teenager angst is another sign of drug use, especially if it occurs when you tell your teenager he cannot go out. Addicts crave the drugs they are addicted to. They wake up in the morning and start seeking. Many short phone calls and a plea for money later and the teenager suddenly decides he has to run down the street to help little Timmy with his homework, or he suddenly remembered he was supposed to go to the church and set up tables for this week's potluck.

If you tell him he cannot go and he becomes over the top agitated, almost willing to walk out and defy you completely, it is possible your teenager is using drugs. If he does leave after an argument about it, and returns a little while later seemingly calm and apologetic, he may have gotten what he wanted. In this case, he will most likely retreat to his room as quickly as possible to avoid letting you observe him to closely to see if he appears high.

The late actor Carol O'Connor's son died of a drug overdose. Following his son's death, O'Connor did a commercial during which he stared intently into the camera and simply said, "Get between your kids and drugs any way you have to". Truer words were never spoken. If you believe your child is using drugs, if you are seeing signs of drug use, seek help. Call a friend, a pastor, a counselor, a therapist or a rehab center.

Talking to your kids about drugs is all well and good before they start using. Once they start using, they will promise they are not, they will say whatever they have to so you back off. Get professional help and move forward with the professional's recommendations.

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