The Drug Epidemic: What to Look For

As we are all well aware, the drug problem is at epidemic proportions. With no “summer break” on the horizon, parents keep up their vigilance in accessing their child’s behavior.  Everyone has been touched by this tragedy, whether within their own family or a family close to them. Don’t make the grave mistake of ignoring red flags because you believe it only happens to other people.

Below is some sound advice from Trevor McDonald, a recovering addict and alcoholic who uses his own painful experience to help others. We thank him for his candor.

Signs Your Child Is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol
Have you ever seen a movie where a convicted computer hacker ends up working for the feds? We’ve all seen that story play out at least once. Now, I feel like it’s my life.

I’m not tech savvy enough to be a computer hacker, but my old ways have given me some insight on how good kids can follow a dangerous path. Through many years of personal experience, I have become somewhat of an expert at spotting the signs of substance abuse. And now, I spend a lot of time helping parents identify warning signs and get involved in early intervention.

I’m not proud of this, but I certainly put my unsuspecting parents through the wringer. They didn’t want to believe I was an addict, so they ignored the signs – even when they became obvious.

Although I love them for their faith in me, I don’t want to see you and your children follow the same path.

That’s why I’ve put together some of the most common warning signs that your child is abusing drugs or alcohol. If you are noticing any of the following, it’s time to get to the root of the problem.

They shut you out
When your kids were younger, they probably spent a lot of time telling you about their day at school. When they become preteens and teens, this naturally diminishes some. This is completely normal. But if you feel like your child is completely shutting you out, there may be deeper issues.

The issue may or may not be substance abuse, so don’t jump to conclusions until you have more information. Now is the time to talk about what’s going on.

Looking back, I realize that this was the first sign I exhibited when I started using drugs. At the time, I was glad my parents stepped back and left me to my devices, but I now realize that was the worst thing they could have done.

They start looking different
When a child gets involved with drugs or alcohol, they may or may not change their appearance, so be careful about overreacting to things like piercings or hair color. These forms of expression aren’t necessarily associated with substance abuse.

On the other hand, some changes are very closely associated with substance abuse. Look for the following signs:

  • Red or glassy eyes
  • Unnatural pupil size (too large or too small)
  • Constant fidgeting or lethargy
  • Sudden onset of poor hygiene

At first, it’s easy to write bloodshot eyes off as tiredness. But when your kid’s eyes are bloodshot all day every day, there’s a problem.

For me, it was an unnatural pupil size that my parents questioned. That’s a difficult one to explain away, but somehow I did. Be on the lookout for lame excuses, because like me, your kids will be full of them. Don’t accept anything that feels wrong, even if you badly want to believe it.

You don’t recognize their friends anymore
When a child gets involved with drugs and alcohol, it’s likely that his or her crowd will change. They may maintain some childhood friends, but they’ll probably start spending more time with kids you’ve never met.

With that said, it is somewhat normal for friendships to fade and flourish. If you notice that your child’s friend group changes, ask to meet the new friends. If your child refuses, it may be a sign that they’re up to no good.

When I fell deeper into addiction, my childhood friends wanted nothing to do with me. I can’t say I blame them. Drugs were the only thing I cared about, and I’d lie, cheat, and steal to get them. So, I fell in with a crowd that was doing the same things I was. Life was much easier that way, as long as my parents didn’t ask too many questions.

They withdraw from everything
When your kids are involved with drugs, they’re not just standoffish with you; they’re that way with life.

I was really involved in my school’s theater group before I started using drugs. I tried to keep it up through addiction, but that was impossible. Eventually, I got kicked out and spent most of my time alone.

If you notice one or more of these signs, talk to your kids about what’s going on. Whether it’s drug abuse or not, you should get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Trevor is a freelance content writer and a recovering addict & alcoholic who has been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

Check back next month when Trevor will share what to do when you know your child is using drugs or alcohol.