What to Look For

It is important to keep in mind that if a child shows any of the following symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that he or she is using drugs. A substance abuse or mental health professional may help a child successfully overcome a crisis and develop more effective coping skills.

The key is change; it is important to watch for any significant change in your child's physical appearance, personality, attitude or behavior.

Physical Signs of Drug Abuse

  • Loss of appetite, increase in appetite, unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Slowed or staggering walk; poor physical coordination
  • Inability to sleep, awake at unusual times, unusual laziness
  • Red, watery eyes; pupils larger or smaller than usual; blank stare
  • Cold, sweaty palms; shaking hands
  • Puffy face, blushing or paleness
  • Smell of substance on breath, body or clothes
  • Extreme hyperactivity; excessive talkativeness
  • Runny nose; hacking cough
  • Needle marks on lower arm, leg or bottom of feet
  • Nausea, vomiting or excessive sweating
  • Tremors or shakes of hands, feet or head
  • Irregular heartbeat

Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse

  • Change in overall attitude / personality with no other identifiable cause
  • Changes in friends; new hangouts; sudden avoidance of old crowd
  • Change in activities or hobbies
  • Drop in grades at school or performance at work; skips school or is late for school
  • Change in habits at home; loss of interest in family and family activities
  • Difficulty in paying attention; forgetfulness
  • General lack of motivation, energy, self-esteem, "I don't care" attitude
  • Sudden oversensitivity, temper tantrums, or resentful behavior
  • Moodiness, irritability, or nervousness
  • Silliness or giddiness
  • Paranoia
  • Secretive or suspicious behavior
  • Car accidents
  • Chronic dishonesty
  • Unexplained need for money, stealing money or items
  • Change in personal grooming habits
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia