Raising awareness to look for signs of drug use
No one wants to believe their child will become a drug addict. For many parents, it may seem like a remote possibility, their son or daughter does well in school, participates in extra curricular activities, and aside from the usual teenage rebellion appears to be headed on the right path. Yet there are countless stories online about young people who became addicted to opiates or other drugs, and much to our great sadness those who overdosed.
Parents need to be aware that any child is susceptible to drug use these days and look for the signs. The environment and culture in which we live today can overpower the positive guidance and influence a parent has provided for their child.
Russian Roulette of Drug Experimenting
Most parents today grew up after the sixties when drug use was popular, and some may have the idea that all kids are going to experiment with some drugs—after all that’s what they did in college. Yet times have changed and this is not the world of twenty or thirty years ago. A young person buying marijuana, heroin or any other drugs today, they have no idea what they are getting, or if that one high may contain a deadly amount of fentanyl.
Fentanyl a synthetic painkiller similar to morphine or oxycodone but much stronger—50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, 5 to 10 times stronger than heroin. Another form, Carfentanyl is a veterinary sedative used for large animals such elephants, is even more frightening in that it is 10,000 to 100,000 more potent than morphine. Several years ago dealers began cutting Fentanyl into heroin supplies to increase potency and thereby increase their profit, but this drug being mixed with many other drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and MDMA or Ecstasy.
We commend the number of parents who have lost a child to a fentanyl-laced heroin overdose who are making a brave effort to reach out in warning to other parents. Vicki King is one such mom who had no idea her son was addicted to pills and heroin until it was too late. Believed to have gotten hooked on pills after a snowboarding injury, he had progressed to heroin and finally ended up with a batch laced with fentanyl and overdosed.
Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs
Simply put, we live in a crazy world, and drugs are a multi-billion dollar industry, and sooner or later someone is going to try to convince your child that they should try them. If at that moment they are faced with challenges in life they are not prepared to deal with, or are simply bored and looking for a little excitement, they might just say yes.
For decades Narconon has educated millions of kids in schools throughout the world, and provided broad information to parents and teachers, yet this is not enough. We are fighting a battle that must be approached from all fronts. We need parents to be aware that yes, it can happen to your child. And for parents and educators to look for signs of drug use and take action before it’s too late.
The following is a guideline for parents and other caretakers in what to look for and what steps to take if you suspect or find your teen is using drugs or alcohol:
Common signs a teen is using drugs
While each drug has a unique set of signs and symptoms, there are some general indications that alcohol or drugs are being abused:
Behavioral signs or changes:
Everyone has their own personality and issues whether they are using or not, which means you are most often looking for a change in attitude as an indication. The following are some of the emotional and behavioral signs a young person may using drugs or alcohol.
- Secrecy, staying in his or her room for long periods
- Avoiding eye or physical contact
- Lack of communication, rejecting attempts to communicate
- Finding excuses for any problem, routinely blames others
- Unusually excited, especially at odd times
- Bursts of anger and counter-accusations if questioned on activities or whereabouts
- Gloomy or negative attitudes
- Taking long hot showers several times day/night (indicates marijuana use)
- Disinterest in former activities, goals or school
- Appearing somewhat delusional or paranoid at times
- Less communicative, more secretive
- Moods throughout the day such as upbeat in the morning and unhappy at night)
- Switching friends for no apparent reason
- Lack of motivation or interest in the future
- Frequent use of gum, mints or mouthwash
- Having much less money than usual
- Having too much money (could indicate drug dealing)
- Possessions become messy, broken or dirty
- Being fired from a job or jobs
Physical signs or changes:
- Frequent runny nose or sniffles
- More frequent illnesses
- Complains of nausea, stomachache or constipation
- Unusual tiredness and fatigue
- Eyes are dry or red
- Sudden or extrem weight gain or loss
- Sweatiness or change in odor
- Clenching teeth
- Unintelligible, fast or slurred speech
- Overly tired, needs naps at unusual times
- Stains or burns on fingertips
- Unusual smells on his person, his clothes or possessions
- Keeps body covered with long sleeves, long pants (even in hot weather), hoodies
The discovery of drugs and paraphernalia is the most obvious sign and usually undisputable. Here are a few of the paraphernalia you might find:
Pipes, bongs, rolling papers used for marijuana, alcohol bottles or cans; or syringes, rubber tubing, burnt spoons which indicate heroin use.
Other material that can be a sign of drug use are torn, folded scraps of paper, small torn corners of plastic bag or small pieces of aluminum foil that are flat, burnt or wadded up in balls. Also be alert for any object with residues of green flecks, white, brown or pink powder.
What to do if you suspect they may be using
- Make it safe for your teen to talk to you, give assurance that they won’t be punished or that you won’t think less of them. Kids hide their destructive acts for fear of repercussions or letting a parent down.
- Find an outside friend or someone they look up to who can speak to them. Most teens feel their parents live in another world and don’t understand them, so communication about their drug use can be difficult at best. There maybe an adult friend who they may be more willing to listen to.
- Set boundaries if you have to. Let them know you care and will do anything to ensure they don’t become another statistic.
- Provide reliable information in order to educate them on the real consequences. Most often young people have been fed lies from friends who are using or from those who are profiting from the sales of drugs.
If you discover your child is using more than occasionally or clearly addicted, get professional help. The action you take could very well save their life.