Parents often ask about what they should look for to know if their teen, tween, or young adult is using drugs or alcohol. Sometimes a child may tell you, in their own way, they are using but more often than not they will try and hide it. There are many subtle clues that parents can watch out for including changes in behavior, who the child associates with, and changes in their performance and interests. I have heard many stories over the years and have compiled in this blog a short list of factors parents should look out for:
- Unpredictable behaviors- Most teens have mood swings and unpredictable behaviors. Sometimes parents notice increased lying. Parents often minimize these changes, but they should trust their gut when it happens more frequently or more drastically than previously.
- Change in peer group- Peer groups change for various reasons, but if you are noticing that your child’s peer group has changed drastically and quickly there may be reason for concern. There is reason to be concerned when your child becomes secretive about who their friends are, where they are going, and who they are hanging out with. Also find out if their friends are using drugs. More often than not, if they are hanging out with other kids who are using, they are as well.
- Lacking interest in sports and other activities- While drugs and alcohol are not the only reason that teens and young adults lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed, it should not be ruled out.
- Changes in academic performance- The first thing parents frequently notice is a slip in grades. This often happens as other pieces of their child’s life are slipping as well. Some of the time there are increased truancy, suspensions, or other disciplinary problems.
- Being secretive- Parents report that their child becomes increasingly secretive about phone calls, texts and online communications.
- Missing money – If your child does not have access to money they will not be able to fund their use of drugs or alcohol. They will turn to finding other sources of money, this may mean stealing money and possibly other valuables.
- Paraphernalia- Parents may find cigarettes, bongs, pipes, and empty bottles or cans. Often kids will claim they are holding onto something for a friend.