What are some signs that my child may be using alcohol or other drugs?

See www.DrugFree.org

In the normal course of adolescence, kids often exhibit symptoms that would give any rational adult pause. However, the presence and intensity of a cluster of disturbing symptoms could indicate a problem.

First, rule out any physical illness with a trip to the doctor. Ask the doctor to evaluate for depression or other emotional causes as well. If there's a clean bill of health and the symptoms are still present, follow your gut and locate a professional with experience with adolescent drug use.

Signs and Symptoms Common to Adolescents Who are Using Drugs:

  • Withdrawn, depressed, tired, or neglecting personal grooming
  • Hostile, uncooperative and frequently breaking curfew
  • Deteriorating relationships with family members
  • Hanging out with a new group of friends and unwilling to introduce them
  • Skipping school and experiencing dropping grades
  • Losing interest in hobbies, sports and other favorite activities
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (ie: awake at night, asleep during the day)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Extremely red eyes or runny nose without evidence of allergies or cold
  • Taking household money without permission

The following items present among your child’s belongings could be a concern:

  • Pipes or rolling papers
  • Small medicine bottles or unidentified pills
  • Eye drops
  • Butane lighters
  • Baby pacifiers
  • Incense
  • Drug-related books, comics, magazines, T-shirts, etc.
  • Locked boxes or containers

For more information contact us or request a copy of our Parent Resource Booklet which has more detailed information and a local list of resources. The Rapid City Public Library also has a section with books and other parent resources on substance abuse prevention or parenting.

When should I start talking to my kids about drugs?

It’s never too early to start talking about drugs. Just make sure you speak at their level, in a way that is both easy for them to understand and related to their real life and experiences at their age. With very young children, in preschool and early elementary grades, spend a lot of time talking about the importance of staying healthy and ways they can stay healthy (i.e. exercise, healthy foods, and only taking medicine from their parent or that a doctor prescribes for them).

As children get closer to middle school, it will be important to start discussing what they might see and hear among other students in their school and how to handle various situations. You can role-play with them, where you take the role of a friend asking them to try a cigarette, alcohol or other drugs and they practice what they might say.

Teens need more detailed and sophisticated messages. It also helps if you ask for their opinions. Yeah, we know teens don’t answer questions with more than one or two words, but if you ask more specific and detailed questions on topics that are of interest and important to them it might open the door into their world a little wider. And it won’t seem like “another lecture from mom and dad.”

For more detailed tips about talking to your kids about drugs at every age, visit http://www.drugfree.org/Parent/YourChild.