Watching for Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse

In an ideal world, a child would come to you when he was tempted to use drugs or had tried them the first time but the culture of teenaged life very often does not work this way. Parents have to learn how to spot the signs that a child may be abusing prescription drugs (or any drug or alcohol) and take action.

Teenaged years are a time of great change. Your child may struggle with values and relationships and go through many emotional changes, some of them unpleasant and uncomfortable. It can be hard to distinguish the signs of drug abuse from these other changes. The sad truth is that if the changes are severe enough, drug abuse is very likely to be involved.

Here are changes that commonly show up when drugs are being abused:

  • Old friends are swapped for new ones that drink or use drugs
  • These new friends may not be goal- or family-oriented and you may worry about these new contacts
  • There may now be fights about doing chores that were part of life for many years
  • The young person may insist on total privacy and spend many hours alone in his (or her) room
  • He may be secretive about what he has in his backpack or pockets
  • He may refuse to report where he is going or who he is with
  • If he does say who is he going to be with, a call to that person may show that he is not actually there
  • Grades fall, favorite activities are abandoned
  • He may want or need more money or too much money may be missing
  • He may have too much money or new, valuable possessions (signs of dealing drugs)
  • He no longer wants to pursue goals that were important to him, like music, college, sports or career choices
  • He may stay out late or be gone overnight
  • He may cover his body up more than warranted by the weather (covering marks from injecting drugs)
  • He may lose weight, look unhealthy
  • His behavior may be erratic, swinging from too energetic to too lethargic
  • Sleeping patterns may also be erratic
  • His emotions may be all over the map
  • There may be an increasing number of discipline problems at home, at school or in church
  • If he runs out of drugs, he may experience withdrawal symptoms (see below for details)


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