August 31, 2017

Warning Signs Your Kid is Using

To wrap up the month on addiction, I thought it would be good to look at warning signs and current stats on teen chemical use.

First, the waring signs

Warning signs that your teen could be using drugs or alcohol:

  • Sudden change in friends and appearance
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance
  • Unusual smell on their breath, clothing or body
  • Sudden decline in grades
  • Drop sudden loss in interests
  • Complaints from teachers, classmates, friends
  • Missing money, valuable, prescription drugs
  • Preoccupations with alcohol and drug-related lifestyle in music, clothing and posters
  • Using incense, perfume, and air freshener to hide smell of smoke or drugs
  • Using eye drops to mask bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils
  • Laughing at nothing
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation
  • Appears fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid with no apparent reason


It is good to note that one or two of these things on their own could easily be explained by typical adolescent behavior but they are all signs that something stressful is likely going on in your child’s world so it is time to take note. I think it is also worth mentioning that the ‘perfect child’ the one who is ‘never a problem’ could be hiding behind perfect grades and school attendance in order to fly under the radar.


Recent facts on use

Because there can be a lot of confusing and misleading data about kids available, I went to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for some info. The stats listed below are from articles published on the CDC website in May of 2017.

  • Percent of adolescents 12-17 years of ago who smoked cigarettes in the past month: 4.2%
  • Percent of adolescents 12-17 years of age who used alcohol in the past month: 9.6%
  • Percent of persons 12 years of age and over with any illicit drugs in the past month: 10.1%
  • Percent of persons 12 years of age and over with any nonmedical use of a psychotherapeutic drug in the past month: 2.4%

It is good to note that each stat is only looking at the previous 30 days. Also, a lot of this data is based on self-report so I tend to think that a lot of it is a little lower than the actual number. Of the stats listed, I thin it is of particular note that illicit drug use is higher than alcohol use.   While this number does include marijuana, it also includes things like cocaine, meth and heroine.


Like their homework and chores, we should be talking to kids regularly about sex, social media, drugs and alcohol. I think about it this way, you tell them more than once to take out the trash and to study, why wouldn’t you talk to them more than once about all the other issues?

As always, I would love to hear from you.  What makes it difficult to start conventions about drugs and alcohol?  Keep in mind that while this topic is uncomfortable for both of you, it is absolutely critical to have it.

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