Young people, alcohol and drugs

How to know if your child is taking drugs

This is a common question parents ask, but there’s no easy, sure way to tell.

You might notice changes in your child’s behaviour, including:

  • unusual or out-of-character behaviour
  • mood swings that are more than the usual ups and downs caused by hormonal changes in adolescence
  • being aggressive
  • being withdrawn or avoiding being with the family
  • a drop in school work or attendance
  • dropping out of activities or sports they usually enjoy
  • an unexplained or sudden change to a new group of friends
  • big changes in physical appearance
  • eating problems
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • valuable items or money missing at home.

If any of these things are happening, it may be a sign something is going on for your child. They may need extra help and support. 

Changes could be caused by something else such as illness, problems at school or with friends.

Are things going on in your family that could be affecting them?

How to talk about your concerns

It’s important to talk with your teen if you’re worried they might be using drugs.

How you handle these conversations will make a difference to how they respond:

  • talk about it when you are both in a reasonable mood and alone together - eg: when driving in the car, but not when you’re in a hurry
  • say something that opens up the subject in an easy way - eg: ‘I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. Are things OK for you?’

Make it easy for them to talk to you. Try talking about someone else you know.

You might say, ‘I was talking to a friend about her daughter using drugs. She was very worried. What do you think she should do?’

Sometimes a young person will test out parents by talking about a friend when they really mean themselves.

Be careful how you respond.

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Last updated: 11 March 2016

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