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Signs Of Drug Use In Teenagers

As a parent, it's important to be aware of the signs of drug use in your teenager so that you can take action as soon as possible. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the most common signs of drug use in teens.

April 25, 2023

Signs Of Drug Use In Teens

Teenage years are a time of experimentation, exploration, and discovery. While this is a natural part of growing up, it can also lead to some unhealthy behaviors, such as drug use.

signs of drug use in teens

Early Warning Signs of Teen Substance Use

Early warning signs of teen substance use can be difficult to spot, as they may mimic typical teenage behavior. However, there are some red flags that parents and caregivers should be aware of.

One early warning sign is a sudden change in behavior or mood. For example, if your teenager was once outgoing and social but has now become withdrawn and irritable, this could be a cause for concern. Other changes in behavior could include a decline in academic performance or loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Physical changes can also indicate substance use. Look out for bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, and unexplained weight loss or gain. Your teenager may also have frequent nosebleeds or a persistent cough.

If you suspect your teenager may be using drugs or alcohol, it's important to have an open and honest conversation with them about the dangers of substance use. Seeking professional help from a counselor or therapist can also be beneficial for both you and your teenager.

Behaviors And Symptoms Indicating Teen Drug Abuse

There are many behaviors and symptoms that could indicate drug abuse or substance abuse in teenagers. Some of these include:

  • Secretive behavior: If your teenager is suddenly very secretive about their activities or whereabouts, this could be a sign that they are hiding something. They may also become defensive or angry when asked about their behavior.
  • Changes in friend groups: If your teenager suddenly starts hanging out with a new group of friends who you don't know, this could be a red flag. They may also stop spending time with old friends or family members.
  • Poor hygiene: Substance abuse can often lead to neglecting personal hygiene habits such as showering, brushing teeth, and changing clothes.
  • Lack of motivation: Teens who are abusing drugs may lose interest in schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and hobbies they once enjoyed.
  • Physical symptoms: In addition to the physical symptoms mentioned earlier such as bloodshot eyes and weight loss/gain, drug use can also cause frequent headaches, nausea/vomiting, and tremors.

Not all of these behaviors or symptoms necessarily mean that your teenager is abusing drugs. However, if you notice several of these signs together or if they have suddenly appeared out of nowhere, it may be time to seek help from a professional.

Physical Signs of Possible Substance Use or Abuse

  • Glazed or bloodshot eyes
  • Frequent runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Irritability, anxiety, fidgeting, paranoia
  • Changes in mood or attitude
  • Poor hygiene/change in appearance
  • Headaches
  • Puffy, swollen face
  • Difficulty staying on task/staying focused
  • Wears long sleeves even in warm weather
  • Cold, sweaty palms or shaking hands
  • Sores on mouth
  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Extremely tired or extremely hyperactive

Behavioral Changes

One of the most common signs of drug use in teens is a sudden change in behavior. Your once outgoing and social teen may become withdrawn and uncommunicative. They may also start to display mood swings, aggression, and irritability. Additionally, they may start to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, such as sports, music, or hobbies.

Physical Changes

Drug use can also cause physical changes in your teen. They may start to lose weight, have bloodshot eyes, or appear unkempt. They may also have a persistent cough, runny nose, or other flu-like symptoms. In some cases, they may even have track marks on their arms or legs from injecting drugs.

Academic Problems

Drug use can also impact your teen's academic performance. They may start to skip classes, miss assignments, or have a sudden drop in grades. They may also have trouble concentrating or staying focused on tasks.

Social Changes

Drug use can also cause changes in your teen's social circle. They may start to hang out with a new group of friends who are involved in drug use or other risky behaviors. They may also become secretive about their activities or whereabouts.

Drug Paraphernalia

Finally, one of the most obvious signs of drug use in teens is the presence of drug paraphernalia. This can include things like pipes, bongs, needles, or rolling papers. You may also find empty drug containers or drug residue on clothing, in their room, or in their car.


Can drug use cause changes in appetite?

Yes, drug use can cause both an increase or decrease in appetite. Some drugs may suppress appetite, leading to weight loss, while others may increase cravings for certain foods, leading to weight gain.

What should I do if I suspect my teenager is using drugs?

It's important to have an open and honest conversation with your teenager about your concerns. Be supportive and non-judgmental, and listen to their perspective. If necessary, seek professional help from a counselor or therapist who specializes in substance abuse.

Are there any physical signs of drug use that are specific to certain drugs?

Yes, different types of drugs can cause different physical symptoms. For example, opioids may cause pinpoint pupils and slowed breathing, while stimulants may cause dilated pupils and increased heart rate.

Is it possible for my teenager to be using drugs without showing any obvious signs?

Yes, it is possible for someone to be using drugs without showing any obvious signs. However, this doesn't mean that there aren't any risks associated with the behavior. It's important to have open communication with your teenager and monitor their behavior and activities regularly.

Can drug use lead to mental health issues?

Yes, drug use can lead to various mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Additionally, pre-existing mental health conditions can be worsened by substance abuse.

How can I prevent my teenager from using drugs?

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent your teenager from using drugs, there are steps you can take as a parent or caregiver to reduce the risk.

These include having open communication with your teen about the dangers of substance abuse, setting clear boundaries and consequences for breaking rules, monitoring their activities and behavior regularly, and seeking professional help if necessary.


In conclusion, drug use in teens is a serious issue that requires immediate attention. By being aware of the signs of drug use, you can take action to help your teen before the situation gets worse. Remember to always approach the situation with love, compassion, and understanding. Open communication and seeking professional help may be necessary to help your teen overcome their drug use and get back on track.

Dr. Elizabeth Drew
Medical Director

Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Drew graduated from Hahnemann University School of Medicine and completed her family practice residency at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown PA. In 2005, she opened her family medicine office in Doylestown, and in 2008 she treated her first patient for opiate addiction.

Since then Dr. Drew has attained her board certification in Addiction Medicine, treated more than a thousand patients for addiction to opiates and alcohol, participated in programs to educate the community, traveled to Washington DC to educate our legislators, and served as Medical Director at some of the best addiction treatment programs in Pennsylvania.

She understands that addiction is a chronic disease that no one would choose to have, and her treatment philosophy is based on respect, compassion, and empowerment. She is excited to be the Medical Director of MPower Wellness and work to provide superior addiction treatment in Chester County.

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