Drugs - what are the signs?

illegal drugs

To avoid making assumptions or worrying unnecessarily, it can be useful to be able to recognise the signs that your child may be taking drugs.

The following changes in behaviour or appearance could be a sign that something is wrong. However - even if you think you've noticed some or all of these signs, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. It may not mean that your child is taking drugs - it could just be part of the usual growing up phase as your teenager comes to terms with new hormones, new responsibilities and a new identity.

  • Your child may start asking you for money, or cash could start going missing with no indication of what has been bought.
  • You may find unusual equipment lying around the house, such as torn cigarette packets, small sealable bags or empty aerosols.
  • They may experience a lack of appetite or you could notice sores or rashes around the mouth or nose.
  • Your child may experience mood swings, start staying out late, or begin socialising with new friends.
  • They may appear drowsy, lack motivation, and lose interest in their personal appearance.

If you're worried, the best thing to do is have a calm, open talk with your child, making sure to listen to whatever they have to say. Try not to be emotional or judgemental as this could ruin your chance to have an honest conversation.

If you discover that your child is taking drugs

Don't panic: Although you may have a strong emotional reaction, shouting at your child is not going to help. Stay calm and remain open-minded. Don't just fire questions at them - make sure that you're listening to what your child has to say. Being able to communicate with your child will help to prevent and limit the problems caused by drug misuse.

Be supportive: If your child is taking drugs, you need to understand why. They may be being bullied, or feeling stressed about school. Young people who talk openly with their parents are less likely to try drugs than those without this relationship, so make it clear that you’re there for them, and are willing to help them with any problems they’re having.

Do your homework: There are lots of myths and misconceptions around drugs which may cloud your judgement. Until you’re well informed, you'll be unable to offer your child sound advice. FRANK's information on drugs and Adfam's resources on how families can be affected by drugs will help provide you with the tools you need to manage a difficult conversation.

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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