What to Look For Checklist

How can you tell if your child is using substances?

It is often difficult because signs like changes in mood or attitudes, unusual temper outbursts, changes in sleeping habits, and changes in hobbies or other interests, are already quite common in pre-teens and teens.

What should you look for?

You can also look for signs of depression, anxiety, withdrawal, carelessness with grooming, or hostility. Also, ask yourself, is your child doing well in school, getting along with friends, taking part in sports or other activities?

Check List for Parents

  • Changes in friends
  • Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, or declining grades
  • Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
  • Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odours
  • Subtle changes in conversations with friends, e.g. more secretive, using “coded” language
  • Change in clothing choices: a new fascination with clothes that highlight drug use
  • Increase in borrowing money
  • Evidence of drug paraphernalia such as pipes, rolling papers, etc.
  • Evidence of use of inhalant products (such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, common household products); Rags and paper bags are sometimes used as accessories
  • Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol
  • Missing prescription drugs—especially painkillers, narcotics, and mood stabilizers

These changes can signal that something harmful is going on – and that might involve the use of alcohol or drugs. Some of these signs can also indicate there may be a deeper problem with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

Whether it is substance use that becomes regular or problematic, depression, or suicidal thoughts – your child may need professional help. Take your child to the doctor and talk about your concerns with them. This may involve the health professional asking your child a few simple questions, or it may involve a blood or urine drug screen and further consultations if necessary.

Be on the watch for these signs so that you can spot any potential issues that can affect your child’s mental or physical wellbeing and talk with your child before things go too far.