How do I know if my child is taking drugs?

Signs That Your Child MAY Be On Drugs

When children start using drugs, they often exhibit signs which parents need to watch for. Unfortunately, many parents often write-off these signs as normal adolescent behavior and as a result do not realize that their child is into drugs. 

So how can you, as a parent know for sure whether or not your child is in danger? There is no simple answer to that question - but the best way is to know your child and understand that all children will be exposed to drugs at some time in their life. The parent who says "not my kid" is the same parent who will miss the signs that their child has started experimenting with drugs. So what should you as parents be looking for as signs that your child is experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Dramatic changes in style of clothes, hair, music

Has your child started listening to radically different music? 
Is your kid coloring their hair some weird color just to fit in? 
Is your child dressing down to fit in with friends at school? 

All of these are signs that your child is succumbing to peer pressure. Your child could be in danger of falling into the same kind of peer pressure when it comes to drugs. Everyone has a need to "fit in" - especially children. To succumbing to peer pressure in itself is not a bad thing. The problem is that children don't have a wealth of experience to draw upon when making decisions and as a result it is easy for them to succumb to peer pressure can lead to trouble.

Hanging out with a bad crowd

Your child might tell you that his/her friends are cool kids - and they may be.  But you need to take a close look at the kinds of kids your child is hanging out with.  Chances are that the way their friends behave is the way your child behaves when you're not around. Do some of your child's friends smoke cigarettes? If so, odds are your child is smoking too. Your child's friends are like a mirror for your son or daughter.  Look at that mirror and try to see your child.  One of the best ways to get a good idea of what your child is like is to look at their closest friends.
Tardiness and/or truancies

You need to stay in touch with your child's school. Never assume that their school will contact you if there is a problem. If your child is getting into drugs, odds are he/she will start ditching classes or school all together.  Kids tend to take off during the middle of the school day and get stoned somewhere near the school's grounds.  Don't assume that their school will let you know about this kind of behavior.  You need to realize that kids are great at coming up with good excuses.  Every kid knows how to forge their parent's signature - no joke.  Call your child's school from time to time and ask about your child's attendance record.  Please don't assume anything - find out for yourself.
Lack of motivation in school

Does you child seem not to care about how he/she does in school? 
Does your child seem to put very little effort into homework assignments? 
Does your child come home from school to do his/her homework or is he/she just hanging out somewhere? 

Your child should show a healthy interest in school.  If your child doesn't, then something is wrong and drugs are just one possibility.  One of the first things that goes when your child is experimenting with drugs will be their interest in school.  Now keep in mind that no one likes school every day of every week, when you were a child did you?  Studying is hard work and everyone needs a break once in a while.  But breaks need to be earned by putting in hard work first.
Isolating from family

Does your child act distant? 
When you ask your child what he/she has been up to, does your child give you a vague reply? 
Does you child want to eat in their room all the time instead of with the family? 

Children are smart - they know that the easiest lie to tell is the one they can avoid having to tell.  If you child doesn't tell you what he/she has been up to, there's a good chance your child is hiding something.

Dramatic changes in attitude and personality

Does it seem like your child is suddenly a different person with a new personality? 
Has your child suddenly developed a tough guy/girl attitude? 

If your child is experimenting with drugs, there's a good chance you'll be seeing these kinds of attitude changes.  Often parents just see this as normal teenage behavior - which it may be.  But on the other hand don't make the mistake of simply ignoring your child's personality change, otherwise you might overlook one of the most obvious signs of your child's drug problem

Changes in sleep patterns

This change should be fairly obvious:
 Does your child stay up late (or even all night) and refuse to get up in the morning at a decent time? 
Does your child sleep way too much or way too little?  If your child isn't sleeping much, there is a chance he/she is using some sort of stimulant. 

If your child is sleeping too much, there is a chance that he/she is using some sort of depressant.  Everyone likes to sleep in once in a while, but be on the look out for excessive sleep behavior.
Excessive use of foul or obscene language

Has your child suddenly developed a filthy mouth? 

This might indicate that your child is giving into peer pressure from their friends and should be a warning sign to you.  If your child is trying to fit in with their friends by cursing, your child may look for other ways to gain acceptance into his/her peer group.  One of these ways could be drugs.

Eating way too much or way too little

Here's an obvious sign of drug experimentation that can be overlooked as normal teenage behavior:
 Does your child come home in the afternoon after hanging out with their friends and devour every sweet in the refrigerator? 

Smoking pot gives a person the munchies and your refrigerator is a ready source of snacks to satisfy your child's cravings.
Does your child skip quite a few consecutive meals? 

Use of stimulants will suppress a person's appetite - that's why they are the main ingredient in diet pills.  An unusual loss of appetite, especially by young girls who want to look thin, may be a sign that your child is using stimulants.
Paranoia - everyone is out to get me

Does your son or daughter treat everybody as if they were the enemy? 
Do they tend to express the idea that everybody is out to get them? 
Do they seem overly paranoid to you? 

This is not normal teenage behavior and is one of the most common signs of drug abuse.
Dilated eyes - red eyes - glazed eyes
Do your son's or daughter's eyes look funny? 
Are the pupils real large or real small? 

A person's eyes show the effects of the drugs that person has been taking.  If you think your child is experimenting with drugs, watch their eyes!

Sudden bursts of anger

Has your child developed a violent side? 
Is he or she prone to sudden, uncontrollable fits of anger? 
This doesn't have to mean physical violence but can also be a teen who is always yelling or threatening people. 

Any of these behavior patterns should be a warning sign to you that your child could be experimenting with drugs.


If your child is experimenting with drugs, he/she will be telling lots of lies to cover up their actions. If you suspect that your child is not telling you the truth on an on-going basis, there is a good chance that your instincts are accurate. Be persistent and learn what it is that they are trying to cover up. Drugs are always a possibility.
Dramatic mood swings

Does your child seem real happy one day then terribly depressed the next day? 
Do your child's emotions go up and down constantly? 

This is often identified as normal teenage behavior - and it may be, but it can also be a sign of drug abuse.

Excessive money requirements or money disappearing

Drugs cost money - lots of money.  If your child keeps coming to you needing money, or if money keeps disappearing from your purse or wallet, you need to have a serious talk with your child.  Do they always seem to need round amounts such as $5, $10,$20 or more - that is often the price that drugs sell for.
Talking too slow or too fast

If your child is smoking marijuana, he/she will probably speak very slowly or will express ideas that are completely out of context.  

Pot tends to put a person in a stupor and affects a person's thought process.  
If your child is using stimulants, they will speak very fast and act very hyper.  

Look for dramatic changes in your child's pattern of speech.  If one day he/she speaks normally and the next afternoon he/she is running a million miles a minute, drugs are a real possibility.

In Conclusion  
What you have just read are possible signs that your child may be experimenting with drugs or alcohol.  Or they may be signs that your child has other problems.  Or they may be signs that your child is completely normal.  There is no one right answer all the time. Be on the look out for drastic changes in your child's behavior.  You are the person best equipped to spot the warning signs of your child's problems - drug related or otherwise - because you are the person who knows your child the best.