5 Behavioral Signs that Your Teen is Using Drugs (Pt.2)

Missing money. Late night sneak outs. Sports practices skipped. A sudden and drastic change of wardrobe that your teen insists on wearing every single day.

These odd behaviors suggest something big is going on with your teen, some new event, struggle, or presence that is instigating these activities. While typical teenage development and dilemmas may explain your teen’s behavior, these actions might also be the cause of a more serious issue such as depression, bullying, or drug or alcohol use.

Substance use often manifests itself in behavioral signs, which are unfortunately often missed because teenagers naturally undergo so many other emotional, physical, and social transformations during adolescence. Discerning new behaviors that are spurred on by drug abuse from those that are natural can be difficult, but it is possible when you trust your instincts and know what behaviors to look for. Our previous article covered apathy and disinterest toward hobbies and responsibilities, the mysterious absence or presence of money, matters regarding clothing and appearance, and issues at school as possible signs of use, but there are a few more behaviors to monitor.

In particular, pay attention to changes in behavior that are radically different from your teen previously, appear very suddenly, and seem to have no valid explanation otherwise (based on your child’s answers when you ask her about it and your own observations/knowledge). The starker the contrast of your child’s behavior then versus now, the more likely something significant (potentially drugs or alcohol use) is going on behind the scenes.

These warning signs should always be of concern, whether due to drugs or something else. You owe it to your teen’s well-being to find out what that something else is.

#4) Up All Night, Sleep All Day

We all know teens like to sleep and, biologically, their growing bodies require more sleep than adults. In addition, their natural internal clocks are adjusted differently, hence why youths are prone to staying up later and sleeping in longer. So don’t be alarmed just because your teen plays video games deep into the night, and you seemingly need a blow horn to wake him up in the morning.

That said, pay attention to his usual sleep patterns, noting stark changes. Suddenly sleeping all the time or not at all, erratic sleep, or unexpected shifts in when your teen sleeps can all be a physical side effect of substance use. They could also be an indirect consequence of your teen’s changing schedule and habits due to doing drugs.

All teens, even the most unmotivated of them, have some sort of usual routine or schedule they generally stick to made up of their job, homework time, practices, chores, when they typically eat meals, maybe a TV show they like to watch that comes on at a certain time, etc. At the very least, they have school most of the year. You probably know the general flow of your child’s day and when he’ll be where.

However, drug use may lead your teen to drop or ditch his responsibilities and former hobbies, hang around new people who are up to no good, and frequently attend parties or other opportunities for risky behavior. His once-usual schedule will alter as a result. He might leave the house very early in the morning though he is not required to by school or other obligation or stay out increasingly late—perhaps all night—and do so consistently.

If your teen does not already have a curfew, set one. If he does, make sure you take it seriously. Be reasonable in the time you set but create and follow through on consequences should your teen break it.

Eventually, if your child displays sufficient trust and communication skills you can be lenient with the curfew from time to time, but start out enforcing it firmly, and even if you let your teen stay out later on special occasion, uphold the curfew most nights. Teenagers are much less likely to respect and follow a rule if you yourself treat it more like a mere suggestion.

Be wary of your child insisting on going out all the time, especially at unusual hours or on school nights. Furthermore, what is his reaction if you do not let him go? Is he surprisingly or uncharacteristically upset or angry, even when you have a very valid reason for saying no?

Finally, there’s sneaking out.

There are a multitude of reasons why your teen might secretly leave the house (typically at night) without informing you:

  • To rebel against overly-strict rules (or at least what she believes to be so)
  • To get an adrenaline rush from the act of sneaking out itself
  • To go to some place or engage in some activity she knows you disapprove of. This could include vandalism or pulling pranks around the neighborhood, going to a party, meeting up with a significant other or a banned friend, drinking, smoking, using drugs, etc. Basically, if your teen resorts to covertly leaving in the middle of the night to do something, it’s likely not a good or safe activity.

No matter the exact reason for it, sneaking out, like not coming home all night, is always a sign of accelerated risky behavior. It demonstrates a willingness to hide things from you and break rules to serve her own agenda, attitudes and actions similarly employed in dangerous activities like substance use.

Even if your teen leaves to do something harmless, such as simply take a walk or stargaze, sneaking out can be dangerous. Depending on the area you live, it might night be safe for a young person to be out at night, particularly if she is alone. Even in a perfectly safe neighborhood, if your teen were to get hurt or into trouble you wouldn’t know about it and might be difficult to reach if you are asleep.

#5) Dirty Little Secrets and Big Fat Lies

Secrets and lies, lies and secrets. The two go hand in hand, and if your teen is doing drugs under your nose, they are sure to follow.

These final two behaviors, by their very definition, can be tough to spot but are perhaps the most frequent behavioral patterns of teen drug use. Lying and keeping secrets commonly pervade through all of the other behavior signs on this list, serving as a way to cover up or diffuse suspicion about teens’ new actions and activities.

Sneaking out, refusing to inform you about their plans, hiding failing report cards, stealing money, dressing in a way to conceal physical side effects, owning disguised drug paraphernalia, and more are all deceptive methods teenagers employ to keep their substance use, as well the consequences of such, a secret. In addition, if your child abuses drugs he may be incredibly guarded about his friends, possessions, whereabouts, plans, and activities. He never openly discusses anything about them with you, and your questions usually elicit responses such as “butt out” or “it’s none of your business.” Your teen might claim his room is “off limits” and freak out if you so much as enter to put a pile of laundry on his bed.

Don’t confuse an increased—but perfectly normal for a developing young adult—desire for privacy with nefarious secrecy. Just because your teen requests that you knock before going into his room does not mean he is using that extra time to hide his stash.

Rather, notice when your teen seems to actively or blatantly go out of his way to avoid sharing something with you or becomes strikingly alarmed when you see or learn about something you weren’t supposed to. Why does he have that reaction? If the situation doesn’t immediately make sense on why it was kept secret, perhaps you don’t have all the pieces yet. Press your child for answers.

If keeping secrets is one side of a coin, lying is the other.

Teenagers doing drugs will often become frequent, almost chronic liars, because the continuation of their substance-using habits largely depends on parents not knowing about it. They will give misinformation about where they are going or have been, who they were with, what they were doing, the reasons for their actions, and everything in between. When you confront your teen about other potentially troubling behaviors—why she suddenly lost interest in softball or, out-of-nowhere, completely changed her style of clothes, for example—she fails to answer honestly, instead giving the responses she knows will keep her out of trouble.

But how are you supposed to discern truth from fiction?

Some parents might luck out and have a terrible liar for a child or simply have an uncanny ability to tell when their teen lies. For everyone else, be observant, trust your gut instincts, and take steps to learn the truth for yourself.

Even if your teen is scarily good at lying, as she lies more and more, constantly maintaining a web of lies will become incredibly difficult. At some point she’s bound to slip up. Her stories may conflict with one another or not add up. She might initially cover the truth with one lie but later forget what she said and say a new one. Keep your eyes open and take notice when these clues appear.

Oppositely, perhaps none of these indicators occur. You never catch your child in a lie and have no actual evidence of deception. Yet…something just doesn’t sit right.

Don’t dismiss that feeling as mere paranoia. Parental instinct is a powerful thing, and while you shouldn’t punish your teen without any proof, having that reaction is a sign you should have a serious discussion with your child about drugs and alcohol and consider adopting more elaborate methods to see if there are lying and secrets going on.

Follow up on whatever plans your teen told you he has. For instance, drive by the restaurant he said he was going to see if you can spot him and his buddies through the window or find his car in the parking lot. Call the parents of the friend whose house your child is staying the night at to confirm it is truly happening.

Consider searching you teen’s backpack, purse, room, and car for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes/tobacco products, and related paraphernalia. Keep in mind that drug users often conceal these items in everyday normal-looking objects. Look through soda cans, mint boxes, makeup containers, belts, bottles/thermoses, books, old toys, and even markers/highlighters, double-checking for false bottoms and secret compartments that might store substances.

You—and certainly your teen if he knows about your search—might feel this is an invasion of privacy, a line you shouldn’t cross, but your cannot think this way. Your foremost jobs as a parent are to protect your child’s well-being and guide them to become a healthy, responsible, well-adjusted adult. Drug use critically threatens these goals. If you have just cause for a search—you’ve noticed other signs of drug use or have an overwhelming instinct that your teen is lying to you—then you have a duty to perform it.

Finally, throughout everything, always encourage and reward honesty. Once teenagers start using drugs, lying, and keeping secrets, it can be difficult for them to stop even when they want to. They continue down a dark path because they are too afraid of how you’ll react when you learn what they’ve done, leading them to further hide the truth.

To combat this, assure your teen you care more about him and his safety than punishing him, and that it is alright if he made mistakes if he’s willing to tell the truth and ask for help now. Give frequent opportunities for your child to come clean and go easier on him than if you learned what he did on your own.

Your teen will change a lot as she develops into an adult and might display some odd behaviors along the way. Remember not every new, strange habit or weird action means your child has some major issue happening behind the scenes.

More than likely it’s just her growing up and figuring out who she is, but pay attention all the same. If you notice extreme examples of these behaviors or multiple signs occurring together, however, then there might be an issue, and it’s time to intervene and put an end to your teen’s drug use.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

If you learn (or highly suspect) that your teen is using drugs or alcohol, read our tips on how to effectively intervene or click here for our first three behavioral signs that your teen is using drugs.

Pictures From

Group of Teenagers: From chiesADlbeinasco at https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiesadibeinasco/7361636130 

Paranoid Man: From Aaron Tait at https://www.flickr.com/photos/aarontait/4838674414

Funny Face: From Raissa Ruschel at https://www.flickr.com/photos/raruschel/5532915729

Sleeping Teen: From MC Quinn at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcquinn/2302823476

Jazz Band Practice: From San Jose Public Library at https://www.flickr.com/photos/sanjoselibrary/5731028595 

Checking Watch: From MrTime2give at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrtime2give/8064364626 

Climbing Out Window: From Guyinsuit1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Beer Pong: From Jirka Matousek at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jirka_matousek/9125052180

Lonely Walk at Night: From Christopher Cook at https://www.flickr.com/photos/133517056@N05/19934690626

Teen in Hoodie: From vanes_hud at https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenjajan/3128894157 

Do Not Enter: From Emma Craig at https://www.flickr.com/photos/98925031@N08/9571827657

Pinnochio: From  Walt Disney (Original trailer (1940)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nervous Girl: From Maxwell GS on Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Lion and Cub: From fortherock at https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortherock/3898643410

Cigarettes Hidden in Book: From High Contrast (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Messy Room: From Ben Babcock at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tachyondecay/2067319449/in/photostream/

Conversation at Table: From Matt @ PEK from Taipei, Taiwan (Conversation) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

5 Behavioral Signs that Your Teen is Using Drugs (Pt.1)

We all know drugs can have tremendous, detrimental effects on a person mentally, physically, and emotionally, especially teens and young adults whose brains are still developing. You never want your child to start abusing drugs or alcohol, but, should he start, you would hope to pick on it as soon as possible in order to step in and prevent future use.

Unfortunately, recognizing teen drug abuse isn’t always easy. Obviously, your child will do his best to hide his actions from you, and it can be difficult to spot signs of use if you don’t know what to look for.

In addition to differences in your teen’s personality or attitude, hearing frequent use of drug slang, and finding paraphernalia or other physical evidence, changes in behavior can be one of the most prominent indicators that your child has started doing drugs. This article will address six of the most prevalent behavioral signs, examples of these behaviors, and how to approach your teen about them.

#1) …Meh, I Don’t Care

By the time your child is a teenager, she has likely developed a personally unique combination of interests, hobbies, and passions. Basketball, cooking, comic books, running, art, skateboarding, underwater basket weaving, and everything in between—whatever it is she enjoys and is enthusiastic about is a big part of what makes her who she is. As are your teen’s friends and with whom she spends her time.

Drug use can change all that.

For many teenagers who abuse substances, drug use doesn’t become merely another “hobby” in their lives; it’s the hobby. Everything else tends to fall by the wayside.

Teens may lose interest in some or all of their favorite activities and passions, hollowly going through the motions, generally becoming lethargic toward doing them, or stopping altogether. They might abruptly quit the sports team after working so hard to make the squad or unexpectedly dump friends they’ve known for years and find new, unexpected people to hang out with. Even their appetites may change; your teen might become indifferent to foods she once loved, significantly eat less at all, or have sudden sessions of intense snacking (aka “the munchies”).

While it’s true teens’ interests and relationships often change naturally over time, a sudden disinterest in a hobby or apathy toward all or nearly all of his interests suggest something more is going on, which you should investigate. Ask why your teen stopped or appears to no longer care about a certain activity. Do her answers seem both reasonable and genuine?

Also look at how your teen approaches responsibilities such as his chores, job, and schoolwork. Is he all of a sudden neglecting these duties or is there a dramatic drop in his performance of them?

If your child is using drugs, he may seem to have absolutely no motivation to fulfill his obligations or routinely avoid them. Perhaps he gets fired from work for constantly showing up late or his grades unexpectedly plummet.

The starker the contrast between your kid’s former self and his actions now, the more worrisome this current behavior should be. If your teen has, since childhood, never been quick to embrace school and other responsibilities, his present lack of enthusiasm may not immediately suggest substance abuse (though it is an issue on its own). With teenagers who used to be honor roll students always on top of everything but now push off their chores and bring home failing report cards, however, clearly something is going on behind the scenes that is instigating this change. Substance use is a definite possibility.

Speaking of grades and report cards, discipline problems at school can also be a warning sign. Teachers and other school officials may see a whole other side of your teen and catch behavior that you either miss or your child does not display when around you.

Habitually ditching class, fighting, frequent detention, and suspension are all severe issues that are cause for concern and might be a consequence of drug abuse. They may additionally signify a disrespect for authority and rules, which could escalate to trouble with the law in the future.

If your child is getting in trouble at school, seek out a meeting with his teacher, counselor, or whoever else is close to the situation and can give you insight into what is going on. They can help identify the root cause of your teen’s behavior issues and develop a dual strategy—you at home and them at school—to mitigate or resolve the conflict.

Counselors are also an excellent resource and should be one of the first people you turn to if indeed your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol.

#2) Showers, Shirts, and Shades

This disinterest and neglect of hobbies and responsibilities can additionally spread to some of the most basic duties like personal hygiene and grooming. Beyond the visible, physical effects substance use can have on somebody, your teen’s general appearance might suffer as she showers, brushes her teeth, wears deodorant, and combs her hair less and less, perhaps even entirely. She might not care about her clothes at all, letting them get gross and dirty, or wear the same items day after day after day.

Sure, there are those teenagers going for an ironic “just rolled out of bed” look, limit their showering after embracing some water conservation movement, or just generally grow lazier as they get older, but any excessive, gross decline in taking care of these basic needs could be a sign of trouble.

This is especially true of any teen that formerly took great pride in her appearance and always kept up on hygiene. In other words, the more time it took your child to get ready in the morning before, the more a warning bell should go off when she doesn’t care at all now.

In regard specifically to clothing, the opposite of not caring—being very particular about certain articles and fashions—can also be a potential warning sign. Be on the lookout for your teen wearing the same colors, numbers, logos, or accessories every day and if his friends all have the exact same, specific style. Either of these trends could indicate gang involvement, which usually goes hand in hand with substance use, violence, and trouble with the law.

Even if neither of these signs occur, pay attention to how your teen dresses. What people choose to wear is often a big insight into who they are or their current beliefs and state of mind. A sudden and dramatic change in your teen’s style can be a big clue about changes in his life. Whether that change is ­­­­­­­simply a desire to try out new fashion, a personal crisis, experimenting with substance use, or anything in between, it is your job to take notice and find out what exactly the catalyst for change is.

Finally, be aware of clothing and accessories that celebrate drug culture or may be used to conceal the physical effects of substance abuse. Teens using drugs may frequently wear sunglasses, even at night or indoors, to hide their red, bloodshot, or dilated eyes, or dress in big sweatshirts or jackets, regardless of how warm the weather is, to cover up scabs and needle marks on their arms.

#3) It’s All about the Benjamins

Follow the money.

As any journalist investigating a scandal or detective solving a crime would tell you, money is almost always a key factor to pay attention to.

In the case of your teen possibly using drugs, the mysterious absence of money can be cause for concern.

Let’s say your teen has a job. You know she doesn’t spend much on gas or food or anything, yet she always complains she’s broke and constantly asks for money. It is possible she’s spending her money on something else she keeps secret from you.

Asking for money in itself is not necessarily a warning sign, especially if your child doesn’t have a job or allowance, as kids tastes in what to do for fun generally grow more expensive as they become teenagers. However, being unable to explain what she did with money you gave her is.

In addition, pay attention to how your teen reacts whenever you decline her request for cash or the amount she wanted. Is she shockingly and unreasonably angry (beyond typical hormonal teenage standards), clearly desperate for the money?

Whether your teen just reacted adversely to you refusing her money or not, it is always a troubling sign when your own money is unaccounted for. Lost cash, missing credit cards, perhaps even a mysteriously emptied, once-full coin jar—if these occur with any sort of frequency, it might suggest that your teen is taking them from you.

Stealing is never okay and a deeply troubling action that in itself, regardless of the reason behind it, is wrong and must be addressed. While your teen may have wanted the cash simply for a movie ticket or dinner, there is also a good chance that he took the money to buy drugs, alcohol, or some other illegal or dangerous item or service. Moreover, if your child is willing to cross the line and steal from you, he potentially is willing to cross other lines and engage in other activities he knows are wrong and disallowed.

Pay attention to how much money your teen has and where it comes from. Even if he is not stealing money from you, the mysterious presence of money can also be a warning signal.

Does he have a lot of unexplained cash around? Is your teen suddenly able to make numerous expensive purchases (such as all those clothes for his dramatic change in style)? This should be especially worrying if your teen does not have a job or does not work, make, or save enough to explain how he can afford them.

These may be signals that your child is not only using drugs but dealing them as well.

If your teen displays any of the aforementioned behaviors, don’t immediately panic. There are numerous reasons besides substance use that can propel these actions, from other serious concerns such as bullying or depression to simply naturally growing up. Your child is going to change as she transitions into a teenager and, later, adult, and her behaviors, choices, and interests will likely transform as well. It can be tough, knowing exactly what is causing what.

If a change strikes you as particularly odd, abrupt, or unnatural, start by talking to your teen about it. Embrace this opportunity for communication, honesty, and understanding instead of instantly jumping to conclusions.

At the same time, trust your instincts about certain behaviors and whether your child is telling the truth in her explanations. If things still don’t feel right, if her answers don’t add up or she continually avoids your questions, your teen is probably hiding something.

Keep track of her behavioral changes, as well as other possible signs of teen drug use. And should you learn of highly suspect your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, see our tips on how to best intervene.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 covering two more behaviors that might indicate your teen is using drugs or alcohol.

Pictures From

Concerned Woman: From Conor Lawless at https://www.flickr.com/photos/conchur/419990808

Cooking: From Seattle Parks at https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattleparks/5632134823

Bored Face: From https://pixabay.com/p-146915/?no_redirect

Dirty Dishes: From User:Mysid (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Studying: From Haque, Abul, Photographer (NARA record: 8467822) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Classroom: From ajari from Japan [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Women in Meeting: From https://www.pexels.com/photo/businesswomen-businesswoman-interview-meeting-70292/

Crazy Hair: From Joshua Rothhaas as https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshuarothhaas/2251211039/in/photostream/

Men All Dressed the Same: From Unitedgangsespañol (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Weed Shirts: From m01229 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/20988976518

Out Turned Pockets: From https://pixabay.com/p-1439412/?no_redirect

Money in Wallet: From 401(K) 2012 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/6722544475

Pile of Money: From Tracy O at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_olson/61056391

Drug Deal: From Kelvyn Skee at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kelvynskee/5027288100

Thinking Woman: From http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=19972&picture=thinking-woman

New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones) Pt.1


Pals. Buddies. Companions. Amigos. Besties and BFFs.

Whatever you call them, friends are one of the most important aspects of many people’s lives. They’re a source of fun, trust, and support, people to talk and listen to, and who can tremendously shape our beliefs, interests, and behaviors.

This is especially true for teenagers.

Teens are still developing mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially, still figuring out the world and their place in it. While parents typically remain the primary influence on their kid, the time adolescents spend with peers and the value they place in them grow substantially during the teenage years (who else are they going to send a texting rant to upon storming out of the room, after all?).

Because of the significant role friends play in teens’ lives, parents should always pay attention to with whom their child spends her time.

For although good behavior and attitudes can spread through a peer group, so too can unsafe or unhealthy actions like underage drinking, drug use, and more. Whole friend groups may turn to risky behaviors together as they get older, or these activities may be introduced by one or more individuals to the rest of the group that previously had no inclination toward them.

Sudden changes in friendships, in particular, might suggest substance abuse. Just as getting involved with alcohol or drugs often causes teens to lose interest in their hobbies, school, work, and family, they might also unexpectedly stop hanging out with their usual friends.

At the same time, teens may suddenly start hanging out with new people who share the same substance-using interests. These new friends might seem out-of-character for your teen to bond with and don’t seem to have much in common with your child otherwise.

Of course, we are dealing with teenagers here. Friendships do change, evolve, and sometimes end, with new relationships waiting to blossom right around the corner—especially in the teenage world of hormones and high school drama.

There are a thousand reasons why your teen might end a friendship or start a new one, and substance use is only one of them. Don’t automatically assume your teen is snorting coke just because she no longer rides bikes with Susie from 6th grade.

Instead, simply keep an eye on your teen’s friendships while looking out for other personality, behavior, or physical developments that signal possible drug use. Only when enough of these signs couple together should you seriously investigate the problem further and intervene if alcohol or drug use is occurring.

This article will cover how to best interact with your teen’s friends and approach and monitor his relationships, both new and old.

The first strategy is also the most obvious: Know who your kid’s friends are!

Ask your teen who he hangs out with. What are their names, what are they like? How did he meet them?

Then, at the first available opportunity you see these friends in real life, go over and introduce yourself. Shake hands. Even if it’s a pal your teen has had for a long time, whom you’ve kind of-sort of seen around the house for years but never formally met, make the next time you see her finally be that day.

Even better, take some time to talk to them. Figure out for yourself what the people who play such an important role in your teen’s life are like. Are they polite? Shy? Outgoing? Are they open to meeting and talking with you or counting down the seconds until you go away?

From that initial introduction on, try to chit chat for at least a little bit each time you see them. Ask about their hobbies, how school is going, if they have any fun vacations planned with their families—anything really, whatever topics that genuinely intrigue you, and help you get to know them as a person (this may also inform you more on what your teen is like, as friends often share interests and personality traits).

Over time, you’ll build your own sense of connection or relationship with each friend.

Try to be the parent your teen’s friends want to talk to. You hope your own child enjoys conversing with you and will seek you out for guidance, right? If you can act as this same source of help and advice for his buddies, that’s all the better.

Maybe they don’t have a strong relationship with their parents or another trusted adult in their lives that they can open up to or ask for help when they are embarrassed or afraid of getting in trouble. You can be that vital resource.

Offer to listen to thoughts, stories, and problems. Respond with understanding and honesty. Give advice if they seek it but also know that sometimes teenagers just need somebody to listen when they express themselves.

It is also a good idea early on to exchange phone numbers with your teen’s friends. That way you can still reach your kid despite her rushing out the door to meet a buddy, her phone down to 2% and dwindling fast. If ever for some reason your teen doesn’t or can’t respond to your calls or texts, you still have a way to make sure she is safe by communicating with her friends.

On the flip side, swapping contact information gives your teen and her friends another means to contact you. Perhaps your teen needs to update you on her plans while she is out, but her phone died, and she doesn’t know your number by heart (she should, of course, but when’s the last time a teenager memorized a number after plugging it into her contacts?). Now, however, because her friend also has your number, she can easily reach you.

In case of more dire situations, exchanging contact numbers is increasingly important. Say your teen binge drinks at a party and exhibits signs of possible alcohol poisoning, worrying his friends. Yet your teen refuses to call you for help or give up his phone for others to do so. Luckily, his buddies don’t need his phone to call you for help and explain what is going on (upon which you should tell them to call 911).

Friends might also reach out to you in situations that don’t even involve your teen, yet they require your help. One example is if a friend becomes intoxicated while out and cannot drive home. He thankfully recognizes that he should not get behind the wheel but is too scared or embarrassed to call his parents. Since you are a responsible adult he trusts (because you took the time to get to know him and build a relationship), he calls you for a ride.

Or perhaps he isn’t drunk but simply at a party or other environment he feels uncomfortable without a safe way to leave. In any case, you are able to remove the teen from a potentially dangerous situation, which could have jeopardized his safety or the safety of others. Even though your child might not be a part of the situation at all, helping your teen’s friend is the right, moral thing to do, and you should be proud that he admires you enough to reach out.

When you pick up your teen’s pal, you might feel angry and want to scold him, just as if it was your own kid. However, remember and implement our previous tips on picking up an inebriated teenager: Acknowledge you are grateful he asked for help and save the lecture or yelling. Your job is simply to get him home.

Remember that being the trusted, possibly even “cool” parent does not mean you are bound to secrecy regarding the situation. You are still an adult, after all, and must inform the friend’s parents of what happened. The friend might not have originally called his parents, but they need to know.

Certainly, you’ll have that chance when you knock on their door late at night carrying their drunken teen. If, however, you had to bring him to your home to stay with your teen for some reason—perhaps the parents are out of town—make sure to call them as soon as possible to let them know their child is safe and with you.

Give all the details you know about the situation and remind the parents that their kid made the smart choice of calling for help and that it is probably best to hold off on talking to their teen until he is sober.

Unsure of where your kid’s friend lives? Don’t know his parent’s phone numbers?

Of course, if the friend is coherent enough you can get this information from him, but he might not be if he is drunk or high.

And, sure, your teen may have swapped numbers with his folks (especially if they also read this article!), but maybe not. Or maybe your teen is at her grandparents’ house, which doesn’t receive much phone service, or is otherwise unreachable.

That’s why, with both your teen’s old pals and new, try to build some connection (or at least facial recognition) with her friend’s parents—ideally, before the friend is passed out in your passenger seat.

Just as you should meet your kid’s buddies, so too should you introduce yourself to parents at the first opportunity. Swap phone numbers. Small talk if there’s time.

Admittedly, a face to face meeting might be a tad difficult to come by once teenagers get their licenses and start driving themselves places, but try your best.

Perhaps make an excuse to drop off your teen at a friend’s house instead of her driving on her own one day. Or you can always take the direct approach and simply ask to meet a friend’s parents or invite the family over to dinner.

Getting to know friends’ parents will better keep teens of both families safe and show you even more what your teen’s pals are like. You might even make some friends yourself.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 where we will discuss interacting with friends you don’t like, ways to encourage your teen to end/limit a caustic friendship, knowing and checking up on your teen’s plans with friends, and more. 

Pictures From

Group of Girls: From db Photography | Demi-Brooke at https://www.flickr.com/photos/demibrooke/2577242406

Women Drinking: From https://pixabay.com/p-1173651/?no_redirect

Girls Smoking Pot in the Woods: From St. Gil, Marc, 1924-1992, Photographer (NARA record: 8464473) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shaking Hands: From Lucas (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Teen and Man Shake Hands: From https://pixabay.com/en/men-shaking-hands-hands-shaking-950915/

Woman and Teen Talk Outside: By John Benson at www.flickr.com/photos/j_benson

Exchanging Numbers with Teen: From Dave Proffer at https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepphoto/3939213937

Passed Out Woman: From Newtown Graffiti at https://www.flickr.com/photos/newtown_grafitti/7982820624

Talking on the Phone: From https://pixabay.com/p-1582238/?no_redirect

Getting into Car: From Lou at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfm49/1015256548

Women Talking: From https://pixabay.com/en/women-beautiful-talking-2079133/

Looking at a Map: From Victor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/v1ctor/4753184912

Adult Female Friends: From Lori at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolololori/2581438627


A Parent Guide to Drug Slang & Street Names

If one positive thing could be said of drug users, it’s that they apparently have a big vocabulary—when it comes to their illicit activities that is. Like walking thesauruses, abusers are chalk full of dozens and dozens of alternate names for various substances and the acts or smoking, doing, or being high on them. 

It can be hard to keep up.

But just as you, as a parent or guardian, should be aware of changes in your teen’s personality and behavior and watch out for physical evidence as indicators of possible teen substance abuse, so too should you have some knowledge on the slang of drug culture.

Maybe you catch some whisperings of all the Looney Tunes that are going to be at this weekend’s party or overhear a new friend tell your teen about freebasing. With this trusty guide, you’ll recognize that those aren’t just terms kids these days are using to describe the latest YouTube fad or video game trend, but are coded names for LSD, cocaine use, and the like.



Other Names: Aunt Nora, Bernice, Binge, Blow, C, Charlie, Coke, Dust, Flake, Mojo, Nose Candy, Paradise, Sneeze, Sniff, Snow, Toot, White.

Terms for Cocaine Use: Amped, Bump, Freebase, Ride the White Dragon/Horse, Toot, Wake Up.

-Crack Cocaine (Crystal Form of Cocaine)


Other Names: 24-7, Apple Jacks, Badrock, Ball, Base, Beat, Candy, Chemical, Cloud, Cookies, Crack, Crumbs, Crunch & Munch, Devil Drug, Dice, Electric Kool-Aid, Fat Bags, French Fries, Glo, Gravel, Grit, Hail, Hard Ball, Hard Rock, Hotcakes, Ice Cube, Jelly Beans, Kryptonite, Nuggets, Paste, Piece, Prime Time, Product, Raw, Rock(s), Rock Star, Rox/Roxanne, Scrabble, Sleet, Snow Coke, Sugar Block, Topo, Tornado, Troop.



Other Names: Adam, Cadillac, Beans, California Sunrise, Clarity, E, Essence, Elephants, Eve, Hug, Hug Drug, Love Drug, Love Pill, Lover’s Speed, MDMA, Roll, Scooby Snacks, Snowball, X, XE, XTC.

Terms for Ecstasy Use: Cuddle Puddle, Drop, Double Drop, E-Puddle, Flip, Rave, Roll, Thizzing.



Other Names: Big H, Brown Sugar, H, Hell Dust, Horse, Junk, Nose Drops, Skag, Smack, Thunder.

Terms for Heroin Use: Channel Swimmer, Chase the Dragon, Daytime (to be high) & Evening (to come off the high), Dip and Dab, Do Up, Fire the Ack Ack Gun, Give Wings, Jolly Pop, Paper Boy.



Other Names: Air Blast, Ames, Amys, Aroma of Men, Bolt, Boppers, Bullet, Bullet Bolt, Buzz Bomb, Discorama, Hardware, Heart-on, Hiagra in a Bottle, Highball, Hippie Crack, Huff, Laughing Gas, Locker Room, Medusa, Moon Gas, Oz, Pearls, Poor Man’s Pot, Poppers, Quicksilver, Rush, Satan’s Secret, Snappers, Snotballs, Spray, Texas Shoe Shine, Thrust, Toilet Water, Toncho, Whippets, Whiteout.

Terms for Inhalant Use: Bagging, Banging, Glading, Huffing, Shooting the Breeze, Sniffing.



Other Names: Acid, Battery Acid, Blotter, Boomers, California Sunshine, Cid, Doses, Dots, Golden Dragon, Heavenly, Blue, Hippie, Loony Toons, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Microdot, Pane, Purple Heart, Superman, Tab, Window Pane, Yellow Sunshine, Zen.

Terms for LSD Use: Dropping, Experience, Flashing, Journey, Tripping, Tripping Balls.



Other Names: Astro Turf, Bhang, Boom, Chronic, Dagga, Dope, Gangster, Ganja, Grass, Hemp, Herb, Home Grown, J, Kiff, Mary Jane, Nederweed, Pot, Purple Haze, Reefer, Smoke, Skunk, Super Skunk, Texas Tea, Weed White, Widow.

Names for Marijuana Cigarettes: Joint, Blunt, Spliff, Roach.

Terms for Marijuana use: Bake/Get Baked, Blast, Blaze, Blow One’s Roof, Blow a Stick, Boot the Gong, Bite One’s Lips, Choke, Fire It Up, Fly Mexican Airlines, Get a Gage Up, Get the Wind, Go Up to Bat, Green, Hi the Hay, Hotbox, Mow the Grass, Toke, Torch Up.

-Synthetic Marijuana

synthetic-potOther Names: Algerian Blend, Aroma, Black Mamba, Blaze, Bliss,
Bombay Blue, Bonsai-18, Chaos, Chill, Dream, Fake Pot, Fake Weed, Genie, Herbal Incense, K2, Lava, Mojo, Mr. Happy, Mr. Smiley, Phantom Wicked, Potpourri, Red X Dawn, Scooby Snacks, Sence, Sensation Serenity, Silent Black, Skunk, Smoke, Space Diamond, Spice, SpicyXXX, Spike 99, Tai Fun, Wicked X, Yucatan Fire, Zen.



Other Names: Beannies, Brown, Chalk, Crank, Chicken Feed, Cinnamon, Crink, Crypto, Fast, Getgo, Methlies, Mexican Crack, Quik, Pervitin, Redneck Cocaine, Speed, Tick Tick, Tweak, Wash, Yaba, Yellow Powder.

Words for Meth Use: Box Labs, Chicken Flippin’, Fried, Foiled, Get Geared Up, Getting Glassed, Go Fast, Hot Roll, Hot Rail, Scattered, Spun, Spun Out, Tweak, Wooop Chicken, Zoomin.

-Crystal Meth


Other Names: Batu, Blade, Cristy, Crystal, Crystal Glass, Glass, Hot Ice, Ice, Quartz, Shabu, Shards, Stove Top, Tina, Ventana.

Over the Counter (OTC) & Prescription Drug Abuse


Names for OTC or Prescription Drug Abuse: Dexing, Pharm Parties, Pharming, Recipe (mixing prescription drugs with alcoholic or other beverages), Robodosing, Robotripping, Trail Mix (mixing various prescription drugs).

-Cough Syrup


Other Names: Dexies, Drank, Drex, Orange Crush, Poor Man’s Ecstasy, Purple Drank, Red Devils, Robo, Rojo, Sizzurp, Triple C, Tussin, Velvet.


Commonly Abused Drugs: Amytal, Seconal, Valium, Xanax, Zyprexa.

Other Names: Barbs, Benzos, Bricks, Candy, Downers, Phennies, Reds, Red Birds, Sleeping Pills, Tooies, Tranks, Yellows, Yellow Jackets, Z-Bar.

-Opioids & Painkillers


Commonly Abused Drugs: Codeine, Demerol, Fentanyl, Morphine, OxyContin, Percodan, Roxanol.

Other Names: Captain Cody, Cody, Demmies, Dillies, Doors & Fours, Drug Street Heroin, Footballs, Hillbilly Heroin, Hydros, Juice, Loads, M, Miss Emma, Monkey, Ns, Oxycet, Oxycotton, Oxy 80’s, Pancakes & Syrup, Perks, Pinks, Pink Footballs, Schoolboy, Vikes, White Stuff, Yellow Footballs, 65’s.



Commonly Abused Drugs: Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin.

Other Names: Bennies, Black Beauties, Crosses, Diet Coke, Hearts, JIF, Kibbles and Bits, Kiddie Cocaine, Kiddie Coke, LA Turnaround, Poor man’s Cocaine, R-ball, Rids, Skippy, Skittles, Smarties, Speed, The Smart Drug, Truck Drivers, Uppers, Vitamin R.

While simply hearing your teen use any of these slang terms does not necessarily mean he or she is doing drugs, repeatedly hearing these phrases without a logical explanation, especially when coupled with other warning signs and suspicious behavior, could indicate possible abuse and should be taken seriously.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for tips and strategies on how to intervene when your teen is using drugs or alcohol.

Pictures From

Smoking: From Chuck Grimmet at https://www.flickr.com/photos/7723128@N04/6307374507

Cocaine: From https://pixabay.com/en/drugs-cocaine-user-addiction-908533/

Crack Cocaine: From Argv0 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ecstasy: From DEA (DEA, US) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Heroin: From United States Drug Enforcement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Inhalants: From English: Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

LSD: From Psychonaught (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Marijuna: From Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Synthetic Marijuana: From English: Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Meth: From United States Drug Enforcement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Crystal Meth: From Radspunk (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pills: From Dominque Godbout at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dominiquegodbout/5180502739

Cough Syrup: From Stickpen (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Morphine: From Eric Norris at https://www.flickr.com/photos/sfxeric/3964596491

Ritalin: From en:User:Sponge [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

A Parent Guide to Drug Paraphernalia & Physical Evidence of Teen Drug Use

Whether your teen is an all-around upstanding citizen or known to get into trouble here and there, peer pressure and the inclination of teenagers toward risky behavior always make drug use a possible avenue in your child’s growing up. As a parent, it is vital to keep a vigilant watch for signs of substance abuse, which can be difficult to spot if you don’t know what to look for.


Changes in personality and attitude, behavior, and friends can all be indicators of possible drug use, but here we are going to focus on perhaps the most tangible sign: drug paraphernalia and other physical evidence. Of course, finding actual drugs is a surefire sign of substance abuse, but there are additional objects and materials that might indicate your teen is doing drugs.

Drug paraphernalia refers to a wide assortment of devices used to store, transport, make, prepare, do, or consume drugs. In this article, we’ll help you recognize some of these items and the drug(s) with which they are most associated.


Now you might be thinking that this is all pretty self-explanatory. Obviously discovering a bong tucked under your teen’s bed is going to raise a few red flags that he’s smoking the wacky tobacky.

However, the tricky part is that although the paraphernalia connected to certain substances, such as marijuana, may be more familiar to non-users, ecstasy or LSD paraphernalia (for example) might not be. Even trickier is the fact that while some items are made exclusively for drug use or are instantly connoted with certain substances—rolling papers, syringes, etc.—many are normal, everyday objects. You yourself may have purchased them for their intended purpose, unaware of how your teen is actually using them.

Take straws for instance.

Everybody loves a good straw. Especially if straw-memeit’s of the bendable or silly variety. Why crane your neck to take a drink when you can use this nifty little device to miraculously transport liquid straight from your cup to your mouth?

But did you know straws, particularly if they have been cut into smaller pieces, are also commonly used to snort heroin, meth, and cocaine?

So let’s say you buy a box of plastic straws for normal drinking use. What might indicate that your teen uses them instead for nefarious purposes? For straws and any other common object that can be involved in substance use, pay attention to these factors:

  • Do you ever actually see your teen use them for their intended purpose?
  • Where did you find the item(s)? Somewhere unusual? In a hidden or secret spot? do-not-enter
  • Does your teen have a lot more of the item than would be typical?
  • In instances where the items are used communally by the household, do they run out much faster than expected? Are they gradually disappearing (in accordance with typical usage) or do many go missing at a time?

So without further ado, what are some of these paraphernalia—mundane or otherwise—often involved in drug use?


Also known as cannabis, weed, pot, Mary Jane, reefer, and dozens of other names, marijuana is the most used drug by teens (and adults) after alcohol and tobacco. Roughly 20% of high school seniors have used marijuana in the past month. Despite its legality in a handful of states, weed is still illegal under federal law and has been shown to cause detrimental effects on the still-developing brain of adolescents and young adults.


  • Grinders: Used to shred up marijuana buds into smaller bits in preparation for smoking. They are small cylindrical objects comprised of two halves with grinding teeth and a tiny magnet in the middle.rolling-papers
  • Rolling Papers: Small sheets of (usually white or translucent) paper or plant material used to make marijuana cigarettes called joints. Pot smokers will also use cigar wrappings to roll weed, which is known as a blunt.roach_clip_statsRoach Clips: Any sort of clamp or holder, typically made of metal, which a smoker uses to grasp a marijuana cigarette as it burns smaller and smaller, primarily to smoke as much from the joint as possible and avoid burning fingers. Common examples of roach clips include forceps and alligator clips.bongs
  • Bongs: Vertical water pipes that vaporize the smoke of the drug for inhalation. They are most often made of glass or plastic and range in size from eight to fourteen inches, though they can be much bigger.
Heroin, Cocaine, and Meth


Though derived from very different materials, heroin, cocaine, and meth are all highly addictive and dangerous substances. All three are commonly found in powdered form, though cocaine and meth also frequently come in crystal form (aka crack cocaine and crystal meth).

Since heroin, cocaine, and meth can all be snorted, smoked, sniffed, and injected, they share much of the same preparation and consumption paraphernalia.


  • Razor Blades and Cards: Powdered drugs are prepared for snorting typically by being separated, or cut, into thin rows called lines. Razor blades and any type of card (credit card, playing card, gift card, etc.) are the most regularly used, though any other firm straight-edged item will work.
  • Mirrors: Cutting drugs into lines requires a hard surface. Most often a reflective surface is preferred as well. Therefore, users will often carry small portable mirrors.


  • Pen Tubes, Straws, and Tightly Wrapped Dollar Bills: Numerous objects can be utilized to snort drug lines—empty pen tubes, (cut up) straws, and rolled up dollar bills among the most regular—but any hollow cylindrical device could be used.


  • Tin or Aluminum Foil: The drugs may be placed on napkin-sized sheets of foil which are then heated over a flame or other source of heat. As the drug smokes and evaporates, users inhale the fumes. Afterward the foil will usually be charred on the bottom.
  • Spoons: Frequently found with burn marks, spoons are used to hold the heroin-spoondrug while the user places a lighter underneath. The dissolved or melted
    form of the drug is then sniffed or injected.
  • Glass Tubes: In addition to their potential use as snorting paraphernalia, glass tubes—such as those often sold with fake miniature roses—are also employed in inhaling the rising fumes of a heated drug (such as from foil or a spoon). They may be chipped, melted, or charred on one end with a white residue in the middle. Additionally, they are sometimes accompanied by bits of steel wool or cotton, which are placed on the inside of the tube.
  • Syringes: Used to directly inject the drug into the bloodstream, syringes injecting-519389_1280pose an added danger via potential infections and transmission of bloodborne pathogens from dirty needles and needles shared between multiple people. Users may keep around disinfectant supplies like rubbing alcohol in their efforts to sterilize needles.
  • Belts, Bungee Cords, Strips of Cloth and Shoelaces: Drug users create makeshift tourniquets out of these and other rope-like objects and tie them around the site of the injection, typically the arm, in order to enlarge veins.

Inhalants refer to aerosols, solvents, gases, and nitrites that are breathed through the mouth or nose to produce a high. They are the most commonly abused drug by 12 and 13 year-olds.


  • Commercial Products: One of the reasons inhalant use is so prevalent among younger teens is that many of these high-inducing substances are already in the house. Always be aware of chemical products in your home, keeping tabs on how much you should have versus if any is missing. In addition, finding an inhalant substance in some place other than where you keep them—in your teen’s closet, perhaps—is a strong sign of possible abuse. Among the products to monitor are:

-Gasoline and lighter fluidglue

-Paint, spray paint, paint thinners, and paint remover


-Shoe Polish


-Detergent, bleach, and other laundry or dry cleaning products

-Any product in an aerosol can including whipped cream, hair spray, deodorant, and cooking oil


  • Brown Paper Bags: Users will also inhale substances from inside a bag, a method known as bagging.


  • Rags: Huffing is a method of inhalant use in which a person soaks a rag in a chemical and then breathes in the fumes from it.

Ecstasy most commonly comes in pill form and is frequently associated with dance parties, music festivals, and raves. Other common names for ecstasy are Molly and E.


  • Bags of Candy: Users will often hide ecstasy pills among similarly colorful candy.pacifer
  • Pacifiers, Lollipops, and Jawbreakers: When on the drug, users tend to tightly clench their jaw. These items help make them more comfortable.
  • Vapor or Mentholated Rubs: Allow users to breathe easier and enhance the drug’s sensations.
  • Surgical or Painter’s Masks: Abusers will often use vapor rubs by applying them to these or similar masks.


  • Glow Sticks: These and other colorful, neon items are often collected by users to enhance their sensations while high.

LSD, or acid, is a powerful hallucinogenic drug, and an LSD high, known as a trip, can last as long as twelve hours per hit. LSD is typically synthesized into a liquid but may also be found in pill or capsule form.


  • Blotter Paper: Small sheets of absorbent paper composed of smaller perforated sections which are soaked in LSD and ingested. They are frequently decorated with colorful patterns or illustrations.
  • sugar-cubesSugar Cubes: The original delivery system when LSD first became popular, sugar cubes are likewise coated or filled with LSD then sucked on or ingested.
  • Eyedroppers: Used to take LSD directly via placing drops on the tongue.

Multiple/Various Drugs

Some objects are utilized across a wide variety of drugs, thus finding such an item can make it difficult to ascertain what the exact substance your teen might be abusing. Nevertheless, discovering any of these objects (or when paired with shady circumstances in regard to the more mundane items) should raise some red flags.

  • Scales: A teen may possess a small portable scale, roughly the size of a smart phone, for the purpose of buying or selling drugs to ensure the amount of the drug agreed upon in the transaction is accurate.small-drug-baggie
  • Baggies: Re-sealable, sandwich-sized plastic bags are a typical method of storing a drug stash. Though a common item in transporting food, teens using drugs can be found with an unusually high number of empty baggies in their pockets, rooms, backpacks, etc. Users also commonly shift the drug to a corner of the bag, use a twist tie or other knot to secure it, and then cut off the remainder of the bag. Also be on the lookout for tinier baggies, containing a single dose or hit of a substance.


  • Glass Vials, Boxes, and Other Small Containers: In addition to baggies, teens will use any type of vial, box, or container to store their drugs. Drug users may even buy storage paraphernalia that look like normal items or alter such objects themselves to house a secret holding compartment. Examples of items used to store drugs include:

-Mint or candy boxes

-Stuffed animals or other toys book-cut-pages

-Books with the middles of pages cut out

-Makeup containers and lipstick tubes

-Battery boxes

-Soda, snack, cleaning supply, shaving cream or any other type of cans

-Bottles and thermoses

Since such paraphernalia are designed to evade suspicion, you may not realize an object is storing drugs, even upon thorough inspection. Therefore, take note of certain behaviors that seem odd given the item.

In the case of a stuffed animal example, for instance, let’s say your teen says she keeps it for sentimental reasons. Why then does she bring it to school and parties? Or in another example, your teen finished all of the chips in that can of Pringles weeks ago. Why does she still have the can in her room? And how come she absolutely refuses to share a mint even though you see lighterher carrying around that metal Altoid box all the time?

  • Lighters: Numerous drugs, in one form or another, can be smoked including weed, crack cocaine, salvia, PCP, meth, opium, and heroin, as well as tobacco.
  • Pipes: As with lighters, pipes can indicate any number of drugs that are smoked. Pipes are commonly made of anything from wood to porcelain to glass to clay.

Drug users can be clever and persistent in their smoking and have been homemade-pipeknown to craft their own pipes. While perhaps some people have the whittling skills to carve a pipe out of a wooden block, smokers frequently devise makeshift pipes out of apples, pens, plastic bottles, paper towel tubes, and other household items.

Furthermore, head shops and paraphernalia producers continually develop new pipes concealed within or designed to look like everyday objects. Some might even function as the item normally should. More common examples include pipes disguised as belt buckles, markers/highlighters, lipstick, and video game controllers.

Other Physical Evidencepaint-on-clothes

Beyond paraphernalia, there are other physical signs and tangible objects that indicate your kid might be using drugs. Repeatedly finding unexplained stains, paint, or powders on your teen’s body or clothing—even if you can’t explicitly identify them as an illicit substance—is one such example. Many others are methods your teen may employ to hide his abuse.

Case in point, unless you are Corey Hart, there’s no reason to wear your sunglasses at night. Teens who constantly keep their shades on after dark or indoors might be concealing bloodshot eyes or dilated or constricted pupils, a common effect of substance abuse. Eye drops also indicate this behavior.

Similarly, have you noticed your teen always wearing arm bands or long sleeves even during really warm weather? He might be covering needle marks or scabs.

Next, drug use is a smelly business. Whether from the substances themselves, the process of preparation or consumption, or the effect they have on a person’s body, drugs often come with a strange assortment of odors, aromas, and stenches, smells teens will want to hide.

incenseThey might burn incense while they smoke to mask the drug’s burning scent or frequently spray air fresheners. A sudden or heavy use of breath mints, mouthwash, perfume or cologne might also suggest your teen is covering the smell of drugs on his clothes or body.

Finally, monitor your child’s interest in drug culture. Does he frequently visit websites, listen to music, watch movies, or read magazines the regularly glamorize substance use? Of course, simply liking a song now and again that references drugs doesn’t mean your kid is an addict; however, increasingly delving into a culture that celebrates abuse can quickly lead to him joining that lifestyle.

weed-shirtAnd how about his clothes and other possessions? It’s not difficult to find t-shirts, posters, jewelry, mugs, and countless knickknacks plastered with images of drugs or drug use, marijuana in particular, at a flea market or novelty store at the local mall. While not every belt buckle shaped like a pot leaf secretly hides a pipe or weed stash, your teen’s possession of one is troubling all the same.

Drug use can be difficult to spot, but with this guide you will recognize some of the most common objects connected with substance abuse.

Furthermore, although drug culture will evolve and develop new paraphernalia and consumption methods, asking the same questions—why is my teen so protective of his ______ (fill in the blank with any item),  how come he has so many ______, but I never see him use them?, etc.—can help you identify other objects not popularly used or invented yet.

But finding drug paraphernalia is just the first step. Next, with physical evidence in hand, you need to confront your teen.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for tips and strategies on how to intervene when your teen is using drugs or alcohol.


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“Drug Paraphernalia: Spot the Warning Signs of Teen Drug Abuse.” Teen Rehab Center: Substance Abuse Resources & Treatment. Teen Rehab Center. https://www.teenrehabcenter.org/resources/drug-paraphernalia/ 

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“Identifying Drug Paraphernalia.” Teen Rehab Newport Academy. Newport Academy, 2016. https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/substance-abuse/identifying-drug-paraphernalia/ 

“Inhalants.” DrugFacts: Inhalants | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). National Institutes of Health. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/inhalants 

“Recognizing Methamphetamine Use.” PoliceLink: The Nation’s Law Enforcement Community. Police Link. http://policelink.monster.com/training/articles/12184-recognizing-methamphetamine-use 

“The Truth about Crack Cocaine,” “The Truth about Crystal Meth,” “The Truth about Cocaine,” “The Truth about Ecstasy,” “The Truth about Heroin,” “The Truth about Inhalants,” “The Truth about Marijuana,” & “The Truth about LSD.” The Truth about Drugs. Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 2016. http://www.drugfreeworld.org/home.html

“Tools of the Trade: How to Spot Ecstasy Paraphernalia.” Alcohol and Drug Rehab Programs – Addiction Treatment Centers. Project Know. http://www.projectknow.com/tools-of-the-trade-how-to-spot-ecstasy-paraphernalia/ 

Yoder, Robert. “The Parents Guide to Drug Paraphernalia.” Palm Beach Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment. The Palm Beach Institute, 2015. https://www.pbinstitute.com/parents-guide-drug-paraphernalia/

Pictures From

Table of Paraphernalia: From Frank Boston at www.flickr.com/photos/fixersphotos

Paraphernalia: From Espiritusanctus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Straws: Original image from Horia Varlan from Bucharest, Romania (Eight drinking straws in rainbow colors) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Words added by author.

Do Not Enter: From Emma Craig at https://www.flickr.com/photos/98925031@N08/9571827657

Grinders: From Liquid Splitter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rolling Papers: From Erik Fenderson [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Roach Clips: From Spydercanopus at English Wikipedia, edited by Craig Pemberton at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bongs: From IN HL at www.flickr.com/photos/100443193@N08

Heroin: From United States Drug Enforcement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cocaine: From Zxc (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Snorting: From https://pixabay.com/en/cocaine-drugs-death-396752/

Meth on Tin Foil: From United States Drug Enforcement Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Burnt Spoon: From Psychonaught (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Injection: From https://pixabay.com/en/injecting-medical-shot-veins-519389/

Spray Paint: From Kufi Smacker at www.flickr.com/photos/kufismackerpck

Krazy Glue: From Mike Mozart at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/15014590012

Inhaling Aerosol Cans: From Evil Erin at https://www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/3424970624

Old Rag: From https://pixabay.com/p-245431/?no_redirect

Ecstasy: From DEA (DEA, US) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pacifier: From inner.child (www.ebay.co.uk) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Glow Sticks: From https://pixabay.com/p-693843/?no_redirect

Blotter Paper: From Psychonaught (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sugar Cubes: From david pacey at https://www.flickr.com/photos/63723146@N08/7164573186

Baggie: By Mikeaz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Glass Vials: From https://pixabay.com/en/bottles-antique-old-glass-vintage-681901/

Book with Cut Pages: From Mork (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lighter: From David J. Fred (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/bysa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Makeshift Pipe: From Whitney from Scottsdale, USA (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Paint-Covered Man: From The Pug Father at www.flickr.com/photos/fleur-design

Incense: From https://pixabay.com/p-699434/?no_redirect

Pot T-Shirt: From m01229 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/7552600614

Thinking: Original image from https://pixabay.com/p-1701188/?no_redirect. Words added by author. 

Let’s Get Started!

Hi, and welcome to Omni Youth Programs, a non-profit agency dedicated to preventing teen alcohol use, strengthening families, and developing youth leaders!

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Our goal here is to educate readers’ knowledge of alcohol and its detrimental effects, particularly on teenagers and families. As this blog grows, we’ll be exploring a multitude of different topics related to alcohol, teens, and families, which we hope will clarify some widespread myths and answer frequent questions.

How, for example, did the legal drinking age become 21, and what are the reasons for that? Why is binge drinking popular and why is it so dangerous? As a parent, what are signs that your child might be drinking or doing drugs and how should you approach the situation?

We’ll also take an in-depth look at alcohol’s role in or effect on specific issues including violence, athletic and academic performance, sex, and more.

Moreover, although preventing underage drinking is Omni Youth Programs’ primary focus, we know that alcohol is not the only problem teens face. So, on occasional we will additionally delve into topics such as bullying, depression, and drug use, and how teens and families can confront these issues in their own lives.

And remember, if you or teens you know are struggling with alcohol use, or if you want to take preemptive preventative action, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. We train individuals and groups (for free!) to lead model-based programs to educate teens and families about the dangers of alcohol while improving participants’ self-esteem, life skills, and family bonds.

Together, we can empower the future.