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5 Signs a Teen is Using Drugs

Updated on November 26, 2011

I am writing this article from the perspective of someone who was once a teenager who dabbled in illicit substances from time to time (I no longer do, of course, and haven't for decades now) -- and who spent most of her teens fully immersed in the lifestyle of hardcore hippies and the like. Things may have changed somewhat since I was a teenager, but I don't reckon they've changed so much that you wouldn't be able to spot these same 5 signs that a teen is using drugs. So please continue reading to learn more about these signs.


Your kid's got new friends -- and you still haven't met them

If your teen is suddenly spending a lot of time at friends' houses (friends you've yet to meet, in particular) and doesn't seem keen on bringing them round your home, this could be a sign that something is up. If your teen has just started associating with people s/he knows you would not approve of, s/he would likely go to their place instead of bring them over for dinner. And if your teen has also suddenly dumped the friends they've had for ages -- friends you already know and approve of -- this is a bad combination. None of this guarantees your child is doing drugs, but it does merit further investigation.

The Barricaded Bedroom

Now, before you get too upset, it's perfectly normal for a teenager to lock themselves in their rooms and deny access to their parents. It may not be ok, in your view, but it's totally normal and I think most of us did this at some point in our youth! But if your child seems to be up to something behind that locked door, this may be reason to worry. For example, if, when you knock on the door, s/he takes a good 10 minutes to unlock it and let you in, something may be up. Or if you hear a lot of shuffling and drawers opening and closing, this may be a sign of something not quite right, as well. Then again, there could be other explanations! My mother thought I was doing drugs (long, long before I'd ever even seen any!) because I locked myself in my room for a week and kept the cordless phone in there -- I was actually just planning a secret surprise birthday party for her. Boy, did she feel like an arse in the end! So my advice there would be to not jump the gun... if this behavior is ongoing and consistent, it probably merits further questioning. Otherwise, I wouldn't panic too much.


Kids who are really into drugs, generally do not care much about school. Some will go to school to avoid tipping their parents off, but if a kid is not going to school on a regular basis, something is seriously wrong -- especially if you're not even aware it's happening. My school used to call the home between 9 and 10 and you could just answer and tell them you were ill that day, and that was that. No one ever even contacted the parents directly, and by the time the school realized you weren't bringing your sick-notes to school, a whole month of truancy had gone by. As parents, you can at least contact the school and make sure your child has been going on time, and regularly, and let them know what procedure they should follow if your child takes a sick day.

Extreme Changes in Appearance

Now, your child might just be trendy or inspired, but most kids who go from preppie to goth overnight have just fallen into a new crowd, with new ideals. And please, do not take that to mean that goth kids are bad and preppies are perfect -- most of the preppy kids in my school were routine drug users, so just because kids look perfect doesn't necessarily mean they are. I am just saying that any sort of extreme change in appearance, one direction or the other, can signal other big changes as well. And of course this also includes changes that would be related to poor hygiene... kids who are no longer bathing, combing their hair or brushing their teeth have clearly got something going on, whether it be drugs or depression or something else.

Theft Around the Home

Have things gone missing from your purse? Have small amounts of money disappeared, and you're wondering if you simply miscounted? Have these same small amounts started to disappear with some form of regularity? Or perhaps larger amounts have vanished? Or pieces of jewelry? Or perhaps your teen suddenly no longer has that expensive collection of coins that grandpa have him/her? Or perhaps your teen's savings account is empty? These are all signs that something is amiss... But bear in mind, if things of yours have gone missing, it may be that your teen's new "friends" have taken them, and possibly without your teen's knowledge. Nevertheless, these are all very bad signs, indeed.


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