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Signs of Drug Use In Your Teen


By: Jean M. Van Booven Shook,
Regional Specialist, 4-H Youth
Jackson County, Missouri 

It is normal for teens to experience a wide variety of behaviors and moods, and this can make it difficult for parents to realize the difference between what may be normal teenage behavior and what may signal substance abuse.

Here are some signs to look for. Teens who are using drugs or alcohol may exhibit changes in behavior, physical appearance, school performance, friends, and spending habits.

Is your teen moody, depressed, lethargic, or hyperactive- or does his or her behavior go from one extreme to the other? Your teen may discontinue activities or interests that were previously important to him or her, and may spend increasing amounts of time alone. Drug usage may also cause changes in sleeping habits, such as insomnia or drowsiness. It may also cause changes in eating habits or an intense craving for sweets.

Teens using substances may experience weight loss, runny nose, chronic coughing, or redness in their eyes. They may wear clothing that seems inappropriate, such as long-sleeved shirts to hide needle marks, or sunglasses to hide the redness in their eyes. Teens may use deodorizers or incense to try to hide the smell of marijuana use, for example.

Has your teen exhibited a drop in grades, become habitually tardy or absent, or exhibited discipline problems that were not present before?

As a teen becomes dependent on substances, his or her friends might change to include friends who approve of or support their drug habit. Be especially wary if your teen is reluctant for you to meet their friends.

Finally, supporting a drug habit can be costly, so watch for changes in spending habits. Does your teen ever seem to possess an unusually large amount of cash, or on the other hand, do you suspect that they are taking money or valuables from you or other family members?

If you suspect your teen is using drugs, there are many agencies that can help, and it is important for parents to seek help immediately.


Jean M. Van Booven Shook,
Regional Specialist, 4-H Youth
Jackson County, Missouri
University of Missouri Extension




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