Neighbour Hood Support

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use in Young People

Some of the signs and symptoms listed here are also quite normal behaviour for young people and need not be related to drug use. Experts working in the drug field say that parents and caregivers should be concerned if a young person shows a sudden change to quite uncharacteristic behaviour or moods.

Trust your intuition. If you feel something is not quite right, have a frank and open discussion about drugs and the young person's opinion about drugs in our society. It is important to stay calm and show a willingness to listen regardless or how concerned you may be feeling. If you are confrontational the young person is likely to clam-up, say nothing, and turn more towards their peers and drugs for comfort. Respecting a young person's voicing of their "peers" opinions may well give you a better insight into their own position regarding drug and alcohol use and abuse.

Possible behavioural signs and symptoms of general drug use

    Personality changes (moodiness, bursts of anger, withdrawal)
    Getting frustrated quickly (restless, agitated, aggressive)
    Becoming unreliable
    Behaving in an unexpected way
    Cancelled appointments
    Blaming others
    Missing meals or other family activities
    Attitudes to things change
    Absence from school, especially after a weekend
    Wagging school
    Less respect for authority
    Sudden changes in school interest and achievement
    Changes in sporting interest and achievement
    Altered or delayed emotional development
    Lack of energy or drive
    Inability to get out of bed in the morning
    Not up front about friends and where they have been
    A sudden change in friends
    Money of other family members starts disappearing
    Can't explain how they have spent their money
    Frequent illness (colds, flu)
    Can't concentrate for long
    Less aware or less common sense (especially while intoxicated)
    Unable to sleep
    Bruises (due to nutritional deficit or accidents while intoxicated)
    Abrasions (due to accidents)
    Unkempt appearance
    Acne of the face
    General tiredness and listlessness
    Staggering walk (intoxicated)
    Slurred speech (intoxicated)

This information was provided by the D.A.R.E. Foundation of New Zealand. Parents and caregivers can learn more about drugs and issues regarding young people by visiting or attending a Dare to Support Your Kids programme.

If you are concerned about your own or someone else's drinking or drug use, you can free phone The Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797 daily between 10am and 10pm. They offer confidential information, advice and a referral service. Further information about alcohol and drugs can be obtained from the Alcohol Drug Association.

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