It is difficult to differentiate between normal adolescent behavior and drug induced behavior. Parents should consider the following behaviors as possible warning signs of drug or alcohol use, especially if several of these factors are present.
1. Does the child seem to be changing?
Is the child becoming more irritable, less affectionate, secretive, unpredictable, hostile, depressed, uncooperative, apathetic, withdrawn, sullen, easily provoked, oversensitive?
2. Is the child becoming less responsible?
Is the child not doing chores, late coming home, tardy at school, forgetful of family occasions, not doing chores, allowing room to be untidy, not completing homework?
3. Is the child changing friends, dress code or interests?
Has the child developed a new group of friends; taken on the language of new friends; the hairstyle of new friends; switched clothes styles; become reluctant to talk about new friends; become very interested in rock music and concerts; become less interested in school, sports and academic hobbies; refused to talk about parents of new friends; started insisting on more privacy; demanding permission to stay out later than usual?
4. Is the child more difficult to communicate with?
Does the child refuse to talk about the details of friendship or group activities; refuse to discuss "drug issues;" become defensive when negative effects of drug use are discussed; strongly defend occasional use or experimental use of drugs by peers; insist that adults hassle their children; begin to defend "rights" of youths; prefer to talk about bad habits of adults?
5. Is the child beginning to show physical and/mental deterioration?
Does the child show disordered thinking or ideas and thought patterns that seem out of order; heightened sensitivity to touch, smell and taste; increased appetite from marijuana smoking (known as the "munchies"); loss of ability to blush; decreased ability in rapid thought processes; amotivational syndrome; weight loss?
6. Is the child’s behavior more intolerable to parent?
Does the child demand his right to drink alcohol, refuse to spend additional time on studies even though grades are down; insist that teachers are unfair; become extremely irritable; refuse to do chores; use bad language; come home late with alcohol on breath; claim people are telling lies on him; not want to eat with or spend time with the family; act very secretive on the telephone?
The Physical Evidence:
7. Is the child becoming careless in his drug use?
Does the child forget to replace the liquor stolen from parents’ cabinet; put the bottle between the mattresses; leave the "roach" in the flowerpot, in the bathroom or the car ashtray; forget who vomited in the family car; insist that marijuana found in car or room belongs to someone else?
8. Is the child becoming drug dependent?
Does the child take money from parents, brothers or sisters; steal objects from home that are easily converted to cash; lie chronically; drop out of school?
Is the child caught shoplifting, charged with burglary, charged with prostitution, arrested for drug use or delinquent act?
Has the child attempted suicide?
By Thomas J. Gleaton, Ed.D.