Signs of Drug Abuse – Seven Clues to Look For

This question is one of the most often asked when one of our presenters is speaking to a group of parents or teachers. How to tell if a young person is abusing drugs?

While there is no single way to know with certainty when a person has started experimenting with drugs, there are actually many changes that can indicate drug use. These changes are in the areas of appearance, mannerisms and attitude. Also there can be changes in participation in group activities, a lessening in motivation toward prior goals and a lowering of his/her general willingness to help.

Because a person on drugs usually needs to hide his activities, usual mannerisms begin to change. This “hiding” shows up in many ways, no matter how much he tries to make everything appear normal.

Watch for Changes in the General Mannerisms

1. The person cannot comfortably look you in the eye when speaking,being spoken to or approached.

Even though this is sometimes merely a sign of low communication skills and basic shyness, when it shows up as a change, it is often an indicator of drugs.

2. The person is very unreliable.

The person is not dependable, shows up late to school/work and it keeps getting worse, despite efforts at correction.

3. Generally sad, grumpy or a not caring attitude.

This could be the person’s normal way. However it is also a tip-off that there is a drug abuse problem, especially if it is a sudden change from the usual.

4. Short attention span, does not listen well.

Children are easily distracted. That is why the average kid’s TV show is a constantly changing, flash-flash of images. Keeping them focused can be a challenge. But the inability to focus could also indicate a drug use problem, especially if it is a relatively recent change.

5. Sudden change in friends.

Another strong indicator is a sudden change in friends, especially if the new group acts a suspiciously and rarely wants to be around the parents or in the house. This is another way that the person separates himself from those who might not agree with his new activities.

6. Monday morning ‘blahs’.

Some of the new “club drugs” often leave the user with a pronounced depression the day or even days after they are used. The more often these drugs are used, the longer the period of depression can last.

7. Changes in sleeping or eating habits.

Normal sleep habits very often change when a person begins to use drugs regularly. They might stay up late and then sleep away the day. They also might begin to sleep very little for long periods and then sleep solidly for 36 hours. these are indications of drug abuse.

Always be alert

At first you might not see any physical signs of drug use. It takes time for the body to show the effects, especially when drug abuse starts

Again, the most important things to be alert for are sudden changes in attitudes, and behavior patterns. Of course, the process of growing up is a process of change, but things like being tired all morning, or suddenly happy or awake after lunch or a break could mean the person is using drugs to get through the day.

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Drug Abuse Prevention – A Simple Approach For Parents

It’s sometimes a tough thing for you as a parent to confront, not being in control of what happens to your child.

But there are things you can do to have more influence. The basic fact is that the more a person knows about something, the more responsibility he can take for it and the more he can control it.

I want to emphasize straightaway here that the philosophy behind this article is all about applying simplicity to the subject. It’s about basics. The world can be such a complex place but the truth is simple – and the truth about drugs is simple. So it is possible to get it across to someone easily.

It may be a cliché but knowledge IS power and the knowledge which you have and then share with your young person can give you that control which you desire.

Now this is not control in a bad way. Let’s face it, a lot of us don’t like to be controlled and most certainly teenagers don’t generally like to be controlled. But being in control so that your teenager does not get into trouble is positive control and it just has to be exerted in such a way that it is not forceful, not make-wrong and hopefully not even obvious.

A survey done by the BBC in Britain a few years ago highlighted the fact that parents are still largely the number one role models in young people’s lives, not some pop singer or sports star. So here’s another thing for you to confront as a parent – your own behaviour, habits and attitudes concerning drugs and alcohol – because they are noticed.

This whole experience of ensuring a safe and happy start in life for your young person starts therefore with you. Just let me reassure you – the more you know and understand the subject of drugs, the easier it gets to deal with it.

Ask any person in his twenties who got into problems with drugs and he will go back to the first experience in his teenage years and tell you that things would have been different if he’d had some real knowledge about them.

Education does start in the home and if a young person is not getting the right knowledge at school or from his friends, then he definitely needs to get it at home. In a world full of misleading and false information about drugs and alcohol, a young person needs stable data to dispel the confusion that inevitably can occur. Just one stable datum can bring certainty where uncertainty existed before – and this reduces the vulnerability of young people in the face of peer pressure.

So help your young person to be more in control. Educate them on what drugs are and how they affect the body and the mind. With more certainty on a subject, young people will be more confident in their decisions. But give them the power of choice. Give them the responsibility. Of course there can be a lot of peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs, but ultimately it is their decision. Rarely is a person pinned down and forced to drink alcohol or take a puff of a joint.

Don’t preach and don’t force your opinions on them. Be honest in answering their questions. Treat them as intelligent, responsible individuals and you can get intelligent, responsible behaviour in return. That might sound like a leap into the unknown for you but just think back to when you were their age – how would you have wanted to be treated?

The author is a part-time lecturer in the field of drug prevention. He gave his first lectures in 1993 and averages about 10,000 young people a year. This he does around his work in the wellness sector where he works mainly with water, algae and salt. He puts a lot of emphasis on the power of simplicity.

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