DRUG ABUSE -SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Drug usage starts surprisingly early in some children. Children with ADHD are at higher risk for alcohol and drug abuse than the general population. It is particularly important, therefore, for parents of children with ADHD to be vigilant. Schools report there is drug usage in the elementary grades. Although this is the exception rather than the rule, it is important for parents to be aware of its potentially very early onset. Most teens know how to hide their experimentation with drugs, including alcohol, from even the most experienced observers.
There are many subtle signs parents can look for to detect drug usage:
-A marked decline in academic performance, increased class cutting, absenteeism, and lack of motivation.
-A significant change in friends, new acquaintances appear, anonymous telephone calls become frequent.
-Having friends and acquaintances that are known drug users because of former arrests, or school problems.
-Stealing small amounts of money from purses, wallets, and drawers around the house, and/or selling small personal items. (Note-you don't need money to start experimenting with drugs, but to support a habit, many kids have to turn to stealing money and/or selling drugs.)
-Change in sleeping patterns, (e.g. staying up all night and having trouble getting up in the morning.)
-A significant change in eating habits; use of eye drops; general decline in health and/or personal grooming habits also signal possible drug usage.
-Sneaking out of the house late at night.
-Matches, plastic or paper bags found in strange places at home, use of incense at home to cover up the odor of smoking pot.
-Lock boxes (sometimes made in art or shop classes), locked dresser drawers in rooms or "stash cans" which look like Coca--Cola or shaving cream cans.
-An increase in not going where originally indicated, or leaving early after getting there.
-Having more money than would be expected (with lots of excuses as to why they have it) or often owing friends money.
-Going straight to the bedroom and been reluctant to see or talk to others when coming in at night.
-Preoccupation with the drug culture, (e.g. drug slogans on T-shirts, marijuana jewelry, posters, etc.)
The more of the above drug usage signs that are evident, the more likely it is your teenager has a drug/alcohol problem. Some of these signs can be quite subtle. The very nature of drug/alcohol experimentation and use requires it be secretive.
Once a problem is suspected, taking firm action is important. Parents who ignore questionable behavior, make excuses, or cover-up for their teenagers, are harming them. When informed parents confront their teen with the behavior they have observed, the parents should expect:
If you have reason to suspect drug usage (alcohol and marijuana use is most common), an unannounced trip to the family doctor for a drug screening is warranted. For alcohol, a home breathazer machine is available from a variety of places including the catalog store "Sharper Image" for $50-100.