Drug abuse – what to look for

Posted on November 12, 2014 · Posted in Parenting, Teenagers


Proverbs 18:15 teaches that the ears of the wise seek out knowledge. In other words, not everything that you need to know as a parent will be handed to you on a silver platter, wrapped in a bright warning label that says “Danger, check this out.” Sometimes the warning signs are subtle. Thus, they can easily get lost in hectic pace of life. Teenagers just getting started with drug abuse often fit into this category.

Drugs are readily available today, sometimes teenagers need only your own medicine cabinet to get started. If you find any indication of drug use, don’t hesitate, get whatever help is needed as quickly as possible!

I have asked my good friend and fellow elder, Richie Batson, to provide some things that parents can look for to catch the early stages of drug activity. Richie is a pharmacist who is well qualified to address this concern. Following are some things to look for that he compiled to answer my question.

Warning signs of teen drug abuse
“Experimental” use does not always lead to abuse and addiction, but early use is a serious concern and can lead to abuse and addiction. Parents should be aware of common indicators of illicit use and abuse. In order for parents to recognize these indicators, they need to pay attention and have some level of interaction with their teen.
• Having bloodshot eyes or dilated/contracted pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs.
• Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school.
• Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions.
• Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed.
• Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group.
• Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities.
• Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around.

Warning Signs of Commonly Abused Drugs
• Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.
• Depressants (including Oxycontin, Lortab/Vicodin, Xanax, Valium, GHB): Contracted pupils; drunk-like; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness.
• Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; mood swings; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
• Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors):  Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.
• Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.
• Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.

Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.