I’m sometimes asked this question by parents of teens or even pre-teens. The mere fact that the question is being asked sometimes tells me they suspicion use. Years ago a psychiatrist I had the privilege of working with said that we are given the “ick” feeling for a reason. If you have that feeling, and you’re not prone to being suspicious of everything your child does, you might need to look at the situation carefully.
There is no one single behavior that is necessarily a dead giveaway. Observable symptoms of use vary with the type of drug being used and to some extent the personality of the child. With that said, changes in behavior are the first things I would look for. In the beginning most children are very careful not to appear under the influence in front of their parents. So the actual use may be taking place outside of the home or when they feel it is safe they will not have an encounter with you. Behavioral changes you might commonly see are:
· Distancing from parents
· Changes in Friends
· Coded or secret words with friends
· Changes in school performance’
· Changes in clothing choices
· Use of room sprays or incense
· Missing prescription drugs from the medicine cabinet
· Evidence of drug paraphernalia such as pipes, rolling papers, rags spoons, household products found in their room, correction fluid, paint, glue or paper bags
· Eye drops
There can be explanations for several of these, but look for patterns.
There are also physical changes that you should look for. Some examples of these include:
· Bloodshot eyes
· Slurred speech
· Dilated pupils
· Constricted pupils
· Balance problems
· Rapid or slowed speech
· Excessive sweating
These are a few examples, but certainly not a complete list. If you see these things, don’t ignore it. Chemically dependency is a progressive disease. The longer you wait, the worse it may become. Don’t confront your child in an angry manner, but do confront the issue. If your child becomes angry or defensive, don’t back down. Remain calm, but remember you love this child and don’t want any harm to come to them. Seek help. Call a local treatment center or chemical dependency counselor or specialist.