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How Do I Know if My Child Is Using Drugs?

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Being a parent is already riddled with stress, but the presence of drugs can further complicate one’s relationship with a child. Identifying the signs of drug use in a child is crucial for taking the first step toward detox and recovery. Drug addiction affects many facets of life, and whether one observes their child engaging with drugs or the symptoms that drug use creates, accurately identifying the use of these substances in one’s child is the essential first step to change for the entire family

Act With Direction

Even suspecting one’s child is using drugs can bring a plethora of whirring emotions, and it is normal to want to jump in and confront one’s child about their use. However, taking a breath before taking any drastic action is essential. A clear and calm mind is necessary to make the most informed decisions about how to act and help one accurately and fairly identify potential symptoms. 

Taking a moment to research, breathe, and engage in self-care are all necessary before opening any sensitive dialogues about a child’s use of drugs. It can also help parents maintain a clear and fair mental state and act with direction and purpose during these times. 

Identifying the Signs of Drug Use

While catching a child using drugs is all the evidence one may need to open a dialogue about detox and recovery, it is not always possible. Rather, being able to identify the effects of drugs in other ways can be the best source of information about the situation.

The Physical Signs of Drug Use

Substance use drastically affects one’s physical health. On top of the damage to vital organs, drug use can also cause: 

  • Sudden changes in weight (either weight loss or gain)
  • Frequent fatigue or exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Easy bruising, or bruises or scabs having difficulty healing
  • Nosebleeds 
  • Frequent sweating or the inability to regulate body temperature, which may result in wearing clothes that do not match the season, such as sweatshirts in summer
  • Red eyes
  • Unusually sized pupils

Poor hygiene routines are also a common effect of drug use, with many beginning to eschew these routines. Putting less effort into daily hygiene or dress can indicate the prevalence of drug use. However, these physical signs of drug use are not the only effects they have on the body. Drugs also have a myriad of internal effects that present long-term dangers if unaddressed, from damage to one’s internal bodily systems to damage to a child’s brain and mental health. 

Behavioral Signs of Addiction

The use of drugs also affects a child’s behavior. Some common effects of drug use on a child’s behavior include:

  • Changes in scholastic performance or interest
  • Avoidance of responsibilities, either scholastic or around the house
  • Sudden change in social groups
  • Disinterest in previous hobbies or clubs
  • Spending most of their time in their own room or other self-isolation practices
  • Inconsistent schedule or staying out with others past curfew
  • Compromised coordination 
  • Becoming overly protective of personal space, locking doors, etc. 
  • Mood swings or feeling overly defensive
  • Pervasive feelings of anger, irritation, or frustration
  • Intense anxiety
  • Depressive episodes

Gathering Evidence

Noticing these signs of drug use can be a cause for further investigation. However, it is still important to gather evidence before opening a conversation with one’s child about the use of drugs. Recording particular days and times when one noticed changes in behavior or when one wasn’t in attendance for school, work, or other obligations can be evidence to address the situation. 

Going through a child’s belongings can be stressful and may come with a compromised feeling of trust. However, it may also be necessary in order to confirm suspicions if one’s child is unavailable to talk or is avoiding contact. Looking for drugs is stressful, with many hiding spots being innocuous at first. Pencil and earbud cases, inside stuffed animals or pillows, hidden in books, cracks in the walls, floor, or ceiling, or inside easily-missable things like empty candy wrappers or small boxes are all common hiding places. 

However, actually finding drugs is exceptionally stressful, even if they do confirm suspicions. Knowing what to do next is crucial for taking the first step toward change. 

Talking To Your Child

Discussing a child’s use of drugs, especially after one has already gathered evidence or located drugs themselves, is difficult. Scheduling a time, such as later that night, and having these conversations in a neutral place can all help set a fair tone for the conversation. 

It is also important to allow one’s child to speak their side of the story uninterrupted. While lies can be common, presenting contrary evidence rather than simply accusing the lie can be more effective. Constructing a conversation where it is less a confrontation between parent and child, is better than confrontation.

Lastly, be prepared to support in many ways. For some, this is imposing consequences and new restrictions, while also providing choices and resources on detox and recovery programs. Others may volunteer transportation or other resources to empower one’s children to take their own first step toward a drug-free future. 

Wondering about your child’s substance use can be an incredibly stressful and emotional time. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand the difficulty of exploring drug use or finding evidence of your child’s drug use, and we are committed to creating a personalized, fulfilling program for each individual. From each person’s first step into detox, we offer comprehensive and proven recovery options, including individual, group, and experiential therapies, alongside a myriad of other proven techniques. We champion the opportunity to personalize each recovery program to best meet each individual’s needs. We also offer a dedicated family program to address the symptoms of addiction and its ramifications on one’s life to rebuild healthy family relationships. For more information on how we can create a program for you or your child, or to speak to a caring staff member about any questions or concerns, call us today at (949) 426-7962.


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