Is Your Teen Concealing Drug Use?

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5 Signs that Could Save Their Life

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard parents proclaim in desperation that they had no idea their son or daughter was abusing drugs. At first glance, this may seem unlikely given all of the information we have at our fingertips about the signs to look for in recognizing drug abuse. However, I believe they’re telling the truth. Many of the available warning signs only point out blatant clues that a child is abusing drugs. Yet, there are often much more subtle clues about drug abuse that are present, but go unnoticed because we haven’t been trained to look for them.

We’ve all heard the obvious signs that a teenager is using drugs. They’re things like a change in friends, a drop in grades, a radical change in appearance, dramatic mood swings, and so forth. What happens if these signs aren’t there? Are there other things you can look for? And if so, what are there?

The good news for parents is that there are other signs to look for. As a former teenage drug addict who’s gone on to work with hundreds of other families struggling with addiction, I have some helpful signs to look for that you might not be aware of.

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1. A strange “gut” feeling that something is wrong or off with your child

So many times when I ask parents to go back in the child’s history, they’ll report they had a vague sense that something was going on with their child, but they just couldn’t quite put their finger on it. Trust your instinct. If you suspect something is wrong with your child – don’t ignore it.

2. A sudden need for more privacy and secrecy

One of the hallmarks of adolescence is a need for privacy and secrecy which makes it difficult to know if what you’re seeing is part of normal adolescence or a marker that something more is going on. Teens often start locking their doors so this in and of itself is not always a cause for concern. However, one area to pay attention to is the amount of time they spend in the shower. Many teens use their “shower” time to use drugs.

3. Sleeping patterns changing

You need to notice and make note of any chang- es in sleeping patterns. Watch for whether they begin sleeping more or less than usual. Either of these changes can be a subtle sign of drug abuse.

4. Unusual smells

We all know what our children smell like and if you start noticing odors that you haven’t no- ticed before this may be indicative that they’re using drugs. Many drugs that are smoked or in- gested leave a sweet smell or chemical odor on clothing and on their breath. This is one of the things parents frequently report noticing when I ask them about it directly.

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5. Clenching jaws

If your child has never been a teeth grinder and suddenly begins grinding or clenching their teeth, then take heed. Many of the drugs teens use including prescription pills cause an almost unconscious grinding of their teeth.

I want to leave you with one final piece: Teen- agers go to great lengths to hide and conceal their drug use. Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to fool you and don’t beat yourself up if they do.


What Do Parents of Addicts Look Like?

It happened again; the same comment I had heard beforeThe look that did not need words to convey the message: “I can’t believe you would have a daughter who’s a drug addict.”When I told a friend about this, she asked sarcastically what a parent of an addict is supposed to look…

Elizabeth Garrison

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