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So how can you tell if your child is using drugs or alcohol? The warning signs aren’t always obvious, and kids can be good at disguising their behavior. But here are some different signs and symptoms that your teen may be using drugs or alcohol:

__: Mood swings or an increase in anger & irritability (Drug use tampers with the the brain’s reward and emotional centers, which means teens feel much worse than usual when sober, leading to moodiness).

___: A sudden change in the company they keep, or abruptly losing interest in friends they used to hang out with.

___: Changes in appetite or eating habits, such as eating a lot more or hardly eating at all

___: Changes in sleep habits, such as staying awake for long stretches during binges and then sleeping for long stretches thereafter, or not wanting to get up in the morning and sleeping during the day because they stayed up at night using.

___: Changes in hygiene habits or suddenly not caring about their appearance.

___: Strange or foul odors coming from your child’s room, car or clothing.

___: The sudden use of mints, tic tacs, cologne or air fresheners (to cover the smell).

___: A sudden heightened concern with obtaining money.

___: Valuable things around the house start to go missing (because a teen is stealing to pay for their drug habit)

___: Red or bloodshot eyes

___: Developing tics or nervous twitches

__: Strange and unexplainable behavior

Keep in mind that many of these symptoms could be caused by a number of other things besides substance abuse, such as depression or family turmoil. But if you notice any of these signs & symptoms, it would probably be prudent to investigate further.

In addition, here are some signs and symptoms specific to certain types of drugs teen might abuse:

Signs & symptoms of teen steroid use

Here are some signs that a teen is abusing steroids:

  • The sudden appearance of more body hair
  • Unpleasant breath
  • Swelling in the feet or lower limbs
  • Stunted growth
  • Shrunken genitalia in boys or enlarged genitalia in girls.

Signs that a child is abusing inhalants

Given the dangers involved, it’s important that parents be on the lookout for signs that their child is using inhalants to get high:

  • Constantly smelling their sleeves or clothing
  • Their breath sometimes smells of solvents
  • You find chemical soaked rags or items that are out of place, such as garage items in your child’s bedroom
  • Hiding or discarding rags, clothes, or empty containers
  • A chemical odor in their room
  • Unexplained paint on their hands or mouth
  • Household items go missing

A child abusing inhalants might also exhibit some of the following physical symptoms:

  • Frequent sniffling without a cold
  • Dizziness or lack of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Light-headedness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nosebleeds
  • They seem chronically tired
  • Appearing drunken or slurring their speech
  • Red & watery eyes
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Rashes around the nose and mouth

Inhalants don’t appear to cause dependence, but they can be psychologically addictive.

Aside from closely monitoring your children’s activities, you should talk to them about the danger of inhalants. Without giving a child specific examples (which might inadvertently cause them to investigate), explain that many products contain chemicals that aren’t good to breathe in, and so they should never intentionally sniff them, even if it smells good. Explain that some kids will experiment with sniffing certain products over and over again because the chemicals they contain makes them feel weird or jittery, but the reason they feel weird is that the chemicals are poisoning their brain and body.

There are kids who have been rendered invalids from sniffing chemicals like this. They can no longer hold a fork to feed themselves, or get dressed or use the bathroom on their own. They require a wheelchair to get around. Some kids even die the first time they try it. So if anyone ever wants you to try inhaling something from a bag, or wants to put chemicals on a rag or on your clothing and sniff it, you shouldn’t do it. The damage might not show up right away, but it always comes when kids sniff stuff to get high.

  • Signs that your teen is smoking
  • Most teens will try to hide a smoking habit from you, especially in the very beginning. But since catching and squashing it early is key, it’s good to be on the lookout for signs that your teen is smoking:
  • Changing clothes as soon as they get home
  • Sudden and heavy use of perfume or cologne
  • Sudden use of car air-fresheners
  • Excusing themselves or retreating outside at regular intervals

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