Last updated: 05/1/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Every parent can agree that one of their worst fears is their child abusing drugs or alcohol. Education is by far the best means of preventing drug abuse among teens, but this is not always enough to overcome social pressures and misconceptions that can lead down the road of addiction. However, according to the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, there are a number of detection techniques that parents can employ to determine whether or not their child is using drugs.
1. Ask Them
Perhaps the best way to detect if your child is using drugs is to ask them. Parents generally know when their child is being dishonest, so even if they lie you will know the truth. There are also other benefits to this approach, including:
- opening a line of communication,
- providing an opportunity to express your expectations, and
- providing an outlet for your child to share what they need, or ask for help.
All of these things make this the best method of detection.
2. Home Drug Test
Another good method is a home drug test. These are available at most pharmacies, and involve collecting a sample of your child’s urine, hair, or saliva for testing by an independent laboratory.
3. School Drug Test
If you are concerned about your child’s reaction to a home drug test, there is always the option of having the school test your child. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the purpose of school drug testing is deterrence and getting kids on drugs the help that they need.
4. Sleeping Patterns
Sleeping patterns are a very good way of detecting drug use in teens. Particularly the use of stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. If it appears that they are not sleeping for a period of days, and then they sleep for an unusually long time, they may be using drugs.
Your child’s grades can also be a very good way to determine whether or not they are using drugs. Sudden declines in academic performance are one of the biggest hallmarks in teen drug abuse.
6. Friends and Teachers
Feedback from members of your child’s social circle can help determine drug use, as well. Some things to look for are:
- changes in friends,
- complaints about behavior from their friends, and
- concerns about academic or classroom behaviors from teachers.
These could indicate that your child is using drugs.
Changes in attitude can indicate drug use, as well. These include:
- disinterest in things they used to like,
- unusual amounts of defiance,
- apathy, and
It should be noted, however, that these things alone do not necessarily mean your child is using drugs, as they are fairly common teen behaviors.
8. Check Their Room
The space a child occupies most can say a lot about who they are, and what they are doing. Watch for:
- incense or air fresheners that may be used to mask drug odors,
- drug paraphernalia, and
- posters, music, or videos that glorify drug usage.
These things can indicate drug use in your teen.
9. Psychological Signs
There are many psychological signs of drug abuse. These include:
- periods hyperactivity followed by periods of lethargy,
- unprovoked agitation or violence, and
- inappropriate emotional responses.
Again, these signs do not necessarily point to drug use, but are often an indicator.
10. Physical Signs
Perhaps the least effective means of detecting drug use is physical symptoms, as these can be associated with any number of things. However, you should take note if you see:
- bloodshot eyes and dilated or pinpoint pupils,
- sudden changes in appetite, often accompanied by weight gain or loss,
- a lack of pride in personal appearance,
- deteriorating personal hygiene, and
- tremors, clumsiness, and slurred speech.
All of these symptoms may point to drug use. If, after utilizing these detection methods you determine that your child is using drugs, the most important thing you can do is get them help. Their future, and even their very lives may depend on it.