Before I did a Parent Toolbox presentation with Your Choice, I asked Ted to send me some tips and signs of drug use. His email reply was three single-spaced pages of content. “Mom,” he wrote, “I could go on all day. I have so many tricks of the trade and drug knowledge I’d need fifty more pages to share it all.”
“First”, Ted said, “parents will only be effective in uncovering or realizing the hints– many of which are blatant — if they are willing to open their eyes. Kids think parents are stupid and oblivious only because parents refuse to acknowledge the obvious”.
Some red flags:
- Redness relief eye drops.
- Lighters (lighters with the plastic edges burned have been used for marijuana or other drugs to push down or fashion a bowl).
- Money belonging to family members goes mysteriously missing.
- Refusal to provide information about whereabouts or social activities in general.
- Reluctance to have friends over when parents are home or to introduce them to parents.
- Empty or full ziplock bags or folded foil. Ziplock bags with corners torn off. Torn off corners of Ziplock bags can be fused shut to contain drug portions.
- Dialated pupils regardless of light and unchanging from dark to light.
- Elevated loquacity — uncharacteristically talkative.
- Backpacks or carrying bags to social events or used outside of school day.
- Smokey smell. High quality marijuana smells like a skunk. Skunky is a word for high quality marijuana.
- Fluctuations of eating habits; excessive, voracious hunger occurs with drunkenness or pot smoking. Lack of appetite occurs with uppers (adderall, cocaine, ritalin).
- Poor academic performance, loss of interest in hobbies and sports and things that used to interest, laziness.
- Emotional instability.
- Late nights. Alcohol and other drugs are most often used at night.
- Attend music shows regularly and wear band apparel.
- Belligerence, argumentative, DEFENSIVE. If showing strong defensiveness in response to innocent questions, something is meant to be hidden.
- Seemingly unwarranted paranoia, fearfulness or anxiousness. Drug users are always paranoid, especially around parents.
- Excessive use of cologne or breath fresheners.
- Sadness, depression, isolation.
- Drugs, alcohol and paraphernalia can be hidden behind light switches and posters on the wall, above ceiling tiles, in closet socks and shoes, in tissue and tampon boxes and other obvious places you may not think to look. Pill cases, glass cases, cd cases and players, clothes hanging in the closet, cigarette packs,
- Alcohol can be hidden in water bottles or in soda bottles as it resembles the color of the intended content.
- Substances can be taped to the groin area, in cigarette boxes, mint containers, small pockets in backpacks and clothes.
- Drugs are often hidden under the car mat on the floor of the trunk where there is a secret compartment. The glove box, console and other small areas can be storage for pot. Strong air fresheners in the car may be masking pot odor.
- Homemade marijuana pipes can be made from washable markers, highlighters, pens, foil, apples, toilet paper rolls (with a dryer sheet inserted to filter the smell).
- Rolled up dollar bills and straws, used for cocaine. Bloody, dry, stuffy noses and excessive nose-blowing can be signs of cocaine use.
- Loose pills.
- Computer research on recreational drugs.
- Homemade marijuana pipes can be made from foil, washable markers, highlighters, pens foil, toilet paper rolls, apples or other small materials with a hole on each end.
- Rolled up dollar bills and cut straws are used to snort cocaine
- Beer pong is a common drinking game. Ping pong balls and plastic cups can be indicative.
- Condom refuse can mean drinking too.
Remember that pretty much anything is available on the internet. Your child can Google, “Where to hide alcohol and drugs from my parents,” but you can too.
Here is an outstanding and comprehensive help page for parents from our friends at Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation.
More from a drug user’s perspective:
If a teen is exhibiting suspicious behaviors, some of them matching those on the above list, chances are there’s some drinking or drugging happening behind the scenes. Often but not always, depression can bring about drug and alcohol use. Conversely, drug and alcohol use may bring about depression — or elation.
Many cliches about marijuana users are true; an affinity for Grateful Dead, Phish and other jam bands and their apparel.
Cocaine and other stimulants (pills) cause a loss of appetite and an inability to sleep. While marijuana and other downers bring about hunger. Stimulants dilate pupils and marijuana reddens the retina. Uppers bring about dry mouth, talkativeness and energy. They are more expensive than marijuana and hallucinogens. Pills are pricey, but stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are so accessible that the increase of supply lowers the cost.
Any pill that can be swallowed can also be cut up to be snorted. In fact most seasoned drug users prefer snorting over swallowing.
Heroin users have their own group. It can be smoked, injected or snorted. Rarely does a first-time user inject. Heroin is brownish as opposed to the snowy whiteness of cocaine, oxy and many other pills. It is smoked through foil like cocaine. Unlike many other drugs, coming off Heroin brings about sickness and fatigue. Heroin users often wear long sleeves to cover up needle marks. But Heroin is not necessarily injected into the forearms. It can be injected between toes, into ankles, the neck, even genitalia.
Addicts and alcoholics are creatures of habit. They often or almost always have patterns. They are very clever. Occasionally or eventually, they get careless and sloppy.
Apparently nutmeg is a new popular substance to be abused. Subscribe to the Your Choice to Live monthly newsletter and of course the NIDA website to stay up to date on the latest drug trends.
Click here for more parent information on drug abuse, addiction and tips and signs from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.