How to Spot Kids’ Substance Abuse

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It’s not unusual for children to experiment with new clothing, hairstyles or attitudes as they grow. But sudden and extreme negative changes could signal drug or alcohol use. 

During National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, it’s important to familiarize yourself with warning signs of substance abuse so you can get your child the help they need.

General Warning Signs

Common warning signs of substance abuse include: 

  • Withdrawal from family and family activities. 
  • Being irritable and argumentative. 
  • Lying about what they’re doing and where they’re going. 
  • Seeming depressed, angry, paranoid or confused. 
  • Sleeping a lot or not very much.
  • Gaining or losing a lot of weight. 
  • Lacking energy or being hyperactive. 
  • Skipping school and getting bad grades. 
  • Having trouble concentrating. 
  • Dropping old friends. 

Signs of Alcohol Use 

Someone intoxicated may have:

  • The smell of alcohol on his or her breath.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Inability to walk a straight line.
  • Slurred speech.  

Signs of Marijuana Use

Someone smoking pot may have: 

  • Unusually giggly and/or uncoordinated behavior.
  • Bloodshot eyes and constricted pupils.
  • Strangely smelling clothes or bedroom.
  • A hard time remembering things that just happened.
  • Clothing, jewelry or posters that promote drug use.

Signs of Cocaine Use 

Someone using cocaine may have:

  • Periods of high energy followed by fatigue.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Paranoid or nervous behavior.
  • A runny nose and nosebleeds.

Signs of Amphetamine and Meth Use 

Someone using these drugs may have:

  • Hallucinations.
  • Insomnia or unusual sleep patterns.
  • Extreme anorexia.
  • Mood swings or increased aggression. 
  • Nervous obsessive activities, such as scratching.

Signs of Inhalant Use 

Someone using inhalants may have:

  • Dizzy or dazed appearance.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Chemical smell on clothing.
  • Unusual breath odor.
  • Paint stains on body or face.
  • Red eyes.

Talk to Your Child

It can be difficult to know what to say, but it's important to talk to your child about drugs and alcohol, how dangerous they can be and how they can negatively impact people's lives. Be sure to tell them their safety is your priority and that they can talk to you any time. 

Get Help

Speak with your child's healthcare provider about any concerns you may have. They can help you get your child the help they need. With treatment and time, young people can recover from substance abuse and lead healthy, productive lives. 

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