Nearly half of all adolescents will try drugs before they turn 18. Some use marijuana and/or alcohol regularly. A relatively small amount of adolescents are addicted to drugs, but that number is growing.
Use the questionnaire below to help decide if your teenage son or daughter is using drugs or alcohol:
1. Are there drastic changes in your teen’s appearance? This is one of the first cries for attention if that is what she is seeking.
2. Does your teen have altered eating and/or sleeping habits (e.g., poor appetite and insomnia)? Sudden desires for sweets as well as weight loss indicate addictive swings typical of drug use.
3. Does your teen make a number of excuses for why he comes home late?
4. Does your teen refuse to talk to you, other than using simple one word replies (e.g., “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” etc.)? And have you notice her exhibiting slurred speech?
5. Does your teen smell funny? If he is drinking or doing drugs, you may be able to smell it on his clothes or breath. If he smells like he just sprayed on perfume or cologne, he may be trying to cover up the scent.
6. Has your teen been missing classes? Note any calls from school authorities with complaints about her attendance and/or behavior.
7. Has your teen lost interest in sports or hobbies he once enjoyed? Take seriously any mysterious rejection of interests that were once important to your teenager. Watch if he loses interest in his usual activities. He might abandon his previous hobbies, or take up new ones.
8. Has your teen started carrying eye drops, or is she wearing sunglasses a lot (to hide dilated pupils or red eyes caused by marijuana)?
9. Has your teen started staying away from home more than ever before? If so, ask where she is going and who's going to be with her.
10. Has your teen’s attitude changed for the worse? She might become excessively rude and more rebellious than usual, and she might refuse to do any chores unless paid.
11. Has your teen’s behavior changed for the worse? Look for behavioral changes (e.g., excessive sleepiness, lack of sleep, bouts of nausea and/or throwing up in the toilet, an air of indifference, quick anger, irritability, unresponsiveness or spaciness, etc.).
12. Has your teen’s mood changed for the worse? She may be grouchy and may mope around in a lazy fashion most of the time.
13. Have there been occasions when money or valuables are missing around the house?
14. Have you found drug paraphernalia in your teen’s room? If you suspect drug use by your adolescent, this is one of those times that you need to be the mother or father who checks her personal area.
15. If your teen has his driving license and his own car, does his car smell funny?
16. Is there a change in your teen’s hygiene and/or appearance? Look for indications that your son or daughter may have begun taking drugs and spending time with a "drug" crowd (e.g., glassy eyes, new piercings, tattoos, sloppy clothing, general lack of hygiene, etc.).
17. Is your adolescent avoiding having you meet his new friends?
18. Is your teen always asking for money? He might be spending his money on drugs. If he asks for money, ask him what he needs it for.
19. Is your teen hanging out with a different crowd? Her friends may be more rebellious than usual, and/or she might bring home new friends, or neglect her old ones. Is she ignoring her usual friends in favor of a new group who dress different or seem to have lesser morals?
20. Is your teen starting to have falling grades? Adolescents who use drugs sometimes are less likely to value academic performance, so this is a telltale sign. Stay in touch with teachers if a change is apparent. Search for drastic drops, not just little dips. This could be due to anything.
If your adolescent is displaying some of these signs, it does not necessarily mean he or she is taking drugs. It could just be a new phase or an attempt to keep up with the "cool" crowd. Talk to your teen, and get professional help if necessary.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents