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5 Critical Warning Signs Your Kid Is Abusing

Published on 01. 26. 2016

Every parent wants the best for their children, and parents have the experience and judgement that adolescents and young adults often lack – the judgement to eliminate harmful substances from their lives.


It’s up to you, mom and dad, to look for signs that your child is abusing drugs or alcohol, or is engaging in unhealthy behaviors like gambling, anorexia, and other self-destructive activities.

Here are some critical signs that you need to take action – NOW!

1. School Problems

School performance is often one of the first signs of substance abuse. Your one-time school all-star isn’t doing well in the classroom.

• declining grades (this can happen very quickly)

• lower attendance and playing hooky

• loss of interest in extra-curricular activities

• “trouble” reports from school

• problems with teachers or classmates

• no interest in doing homework

• new school “friends” who avoid meeting you; loss of long-time friends

• lack of motivation to do anything

• unusual “hours” i.e., your kid is on the phone at 3:00 AM

You know your child’s capabilities and routines. If grades start to slip and routines seem to change overnight, look deeper for a substance abuse problem.

Don’t pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

2. Stealing from Home

Addicts often lack a conscience, interested only in satisfying the craving. Stealing objects from home is a common practice. There’s little chance of getting caught, and if the family silverware is tucked away in the basement, you won’t even notice it’s gone for months, if ever.

Family heirlooms, expensive jewelry, collectables – all can easily be converted to cash used to buy destructive substances like meth, heroin, alcohol, opioids, and other dangerous substances. In fact, your child can buy drugs anywhere. All they need is cash, and your valuables are cash equivalents on the street.

Look for unexplained missing items in your home. Check the family jewels.

3. Changes in Appearance

Drug abusers like to hang out with other drug abusers who don’t judge your child’s behavior. In fact, these “friends” abuse drugs, too.

Your lovely, innocent child suddenly starts wearing provocative clothes, dyes his hair pink, gets a tattoo and a couple of body piercings, and wears sunglasses – a lot. Dig deeper to find reasons your well-groomed sixth-grader is dressing like a ninth-grade stoner.

Check your child’s eyes. Are they bloodshot? Pupils dilated? Physical signs of substance abuse appear with the use of most harmful substances abused by today’s kids. Be on the lookout.

4. Changes in Behavior at Home

The child who never locked his bedroom door now locks and bolts it shut.

She spends way too much time locked in the bathroom.

Your kid avoids family activities – even dinner. She’s sullen, isolated, unmotivated, and afraid to look you in the eye or give you straight answers. He refuses to attend the family picnic. You can bet that something is going on to cause these behaviors, and it isn’t something good.

Sudden changes in mood, irritability, a change in attitude – you know how your child behaves under everyday circumstances. Why have behaviors changed?

Another sign? Excessive sleep or periods of hyper-activity caused by ingesting depressants or stimulants. If your child sleeps 15 hours a day, why? If your child hasn’t slept in two days, there’s a reason for that.

5. When You Have a Substance-Abuse Problem, Take Action

You aren’t alone, and there is help available.

Contact Hawaii Island Recovery for evidence-based therapies to help you and enjoy a brighter future.



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