Be On the Lookout

Warning Signs and Symptoms

How can you tell if your child is using drugs or alcohol?  It is challenging because the changes in mood or attitudes, random temper outbursts, changes in sleeping habits and changes in hobbies and other interests are common in teens.  What should you look for?

what to watch for

  • Changes in friends
  • Negative changes in school work, missing school or declining grades
  • Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
  • Use of incense, room deodorant or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors
  • Subtle changes in conversations with friends (more secretive, using “coded” language)
  • Change in clothing choices; new fascination with clothes that highlight drug use.
  • Increase in borrowing money; missing money
  • Evidence of drug paraphernalia such as pipes, rolling papers, sandpaper, etc.
  • Evidence of use of inhalant products (such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, common household products), rags and grocery bags are sometimes used  as accessories
  • Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol
  • Missing prescription drugs – especially narcotics and mood stabilizers

You should also look for signs of depression, carelessness with grooming and hostility.  Ask yourself:  is my child doing well in school, maintaining grades grades, getting along with friends, taking part in sports or other activities?

These changes often signal that something harmful is going on, and sometimes that involves alcohol or drugs.  You may want to take your child to the doctor and ask about screening for drugs and alcohol.  This may involve the health professional asking your child a simple question or it may involve a urine or blood drug screen.  Some of these signs also indicate that they may a deeper problem with depression, gang involvement or suicide.  Be on the watch for these signs so that you can spot trouble before it goes too far.

Contact the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Stark County (330-455-6644) or your personal physician for a list of agencies in our community that specialize in child and adolescent mental health and alcohol and drug abuse.

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