How can you tell if your child is using drugs or alcohol? It is difficult because changes in mood or attitudes, unusual temper outbursts, changes in sleeping habits and changes in hobbies or other interests are common in teens. What should you look for?

You can look for signs of depression, withdrawal, carelessness with cleaning or hostility. Also ask yourself, is your child doing well in school, getting along with friends, taking part in sports or other activities?

Watch List for Parents

  • Changes in friends
  • Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, or lower grades
  • Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
  • Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical smells
  • Subtle changes in conversations with friends, e.g. more mysterious, using “coded” language
  • Change in clothing choices: new attraction to clothes that highlight drug use
  • Increase in borrowing money
  • Evidence of drug equipment such as pipes, rolling papers, etc.
  • Evidence of use of inhalant products (such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, common household products); Rags and paper bags are sometimes used as accessories
  • Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol
  • Missing drugs at home—especially tranquillizers and mood stabilizers