Addiction | 4 min read

How Do I Know That My Kid Is On Drugs? 10 Telltale Signs

Medically Reviewed

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

On September 3, 2022

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On March 26, 2019

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Although parents think that kids and drugs are an unlikely combination, it’s more common than they’d like it to be. Sometimes your child may be acting up as a typical teenage process that most kids go through.

However, knowing the telltale signs of drug usage will ensure you’re safe and not sorry. Kids and drugs are a lethal combination; the earlier one gets addicted to drugs, the harder it is to stop using them and the more likely it is to experience withdrawal symptoms. Here are some signs every parent should look out for:

1. Unreasonable problems at school, disinterest, not finishing homework

Irritability in drug users could cause them problems at school. Sometimes you’re seemingly well behaved suddenly start shouting at teachers and calling them names without fear of punishment. They don’t finish homework and lose motivation to study, which is reflected in their grades. ‘A’ students can drop to the bottom of the class because of drugs.

2. Unexplained injuries

Too many needle marks and cut marks on your child’s forearm are signs of a heroin addict. Cut marks on the forearm are mainly associated with children who are suicidal and thus cut themselves as a means of escaping reality. These kids are also prone to using drugs.

It could also be linked to psychosis which often leads to uncontrolled hurtful behavior towards oneself.

3. Behavioral changes (incessant laugh, glassy eyes, others )

Drug users lack the necessary human trait of inhibition. This means that they are not able to decipher normal and abnormal behavior. Therefore, such children will do strange things like suddenly laughing at a random moment or crying even when unprovoked. The crying may then be followed by laughter.

4. Stay out of sight (skip dinners, stay in the room)

Unless your child is usually reserved and shy, changes to such personalities should be investigated as soon as possible.
Such kids usually don’t like associating with people who aren’t like them.

You will observe sudden disappearances from the house at odd hours, locking doors immediately after they enter a room, and avoiding all social events the family organizes.

This may be because drugs make them irritable, or they don’t want someone to spot that they have an issue.

5. Change in physical appearance

One of the most significant signs of drug abuse is a drastic change in how someone looks. Most kids on drugs show a radical when it comes to ‘looking healthy.’ An ‘unhealthy’ drug user usually has bloodshot eyes with a change in pupil size, making them look sleepy or very attentive.

People who abuse cocaine get frequent nosebleeds which cannot be explained. Alcohol users have a typical bad breath, and for some people, when worse comes to worst, there usually are seizures without a prior diagnosis of epilepsy.

Kids on heroin have a standard ‘ heroine look,’ which describes someone who looks emaciated with unkempt hair and nails. There is also a general lack of good personal hygiene and grooming.

6. Change in appetite

The limbic system also controls part of the taste, so a sudden increase in appetite or a drastic decrease in appetite is a red flag for drug abuse. Although this is a weak reason to diagnose a child as an addict, it shouldn’t be overlooked.

7. Hallucinations

Sometimes you won’t be able to tell that your child is doing drugs until they decide to stop using the drugs and start having withdrawal symptoms. Most kids doing drugs often decide to stop using drugs without knowing that there are side effects to quitting rapidly.

They do this in hopes that they’ll be able to stay without anyone ever knowing that they tried medications in the first place.

Drugs such as meth cause severe hallucinations, which may even be linked to suicide. Meth especially causes one to imagine that bugs are crawling on them. This also leads to hysteria because the feeling doesn’t go away and drives them crazy.

Someone who is withdrawing from alcohol exhibits involuntary tremors and irritability. Kids who abuse alcohol are also more likely to be aggressive. Kids on drugs such as heroin also have hallucinations accompanied by paranoia as they can see things that aren’t real.

8. Emotional change

Drugs mostly affect the brain’s limbic system, which is the area that is responsible for the perception and production of emotions. It is also where a large part of one’s personality comes from.

Drugs affect this area but cause the release of hormones which lead to mood swings and drastic changes in character. As a parent, you may even feel you’re living with a stranger in your house.

Drugs also cause irritability, lethargy even when performing the simplest of tasks, lack of motivation, a loss of interest in family and activities involving family members, and long hours of hyperactivity followed by no activity.

However, emotional changes may vary depending on the drug used. Drugs such as meth increase a child’s confidence making them outgoing.
Emotional and personality change is a sure sign of kids doing drugs, especially if physical symptoms accompany it.

9. Missing objects at home

Missing things such as alcohol bottles or cigars are visible signs that your child could have taken your things. However, most kids are smart, so realizing that a small missing object could be a sign of something serious is very hard. Missing prescription drugs that can’t be explained could be the first sign of drug abuse.

The most subtle things, such as spoons, could signify a heroin addict in your home. Spoons are often used to heat heroin before it’s injected into the bloodstream. Baking soda is also usually stolen to be used as a base for cocaine.

Jewelry and expensive valuables could also go missing, which is a sign that your child could sell your things to get money for drugs.

10. They run out of money faster

Drugs are expensive, and since kids have close to 0 income, drugs can take up a lot of their extra money. So if your child suddenly asks for more money frequently and doesn’t offer an explanation on how it’s being spent, then you should probe a little deeper.

Helping your child come up with a budget is a sure way of finding out if there are ‘extra’ purchases that are being made behind your back. Drug addiction can also cause the development of stealing habits, so it’s important to ask around even if you suddenly ‘misplace’ that $5 note in the house.

If you or your child is struggling with drug abuse and seeking detox in Connecticut or the surrounding area, the experienced team at Ascendant can help you take the first step. Our New York detox facility helps individuals safely and effectively break their dependence on drugs and other substances. Reach out today to learn more.

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Amanda Stevens


Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. Read more

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