Signs & symptoms of drug abuse in teenagers

Updated April 17, 2017

Spotting warning signs of drug abuse in teenagers can be difficult because the teenage years are full of change. Teenagers develop new friends and begin to distance themselves from their parents. But when multiple warning signs appear together, they may be displaying signs of drug abuse. It is important to recognise the signs and symptoms of drug use early to prevent lasting damage in the teen.


Hostility is a sign of drug abuse, especially if the teen is usually mild mannered. This aggression is aimed at anyone and everyone, but is usually more apparent at home. Aggression can be verbal or physical. Usually by the time hostility is noticed there have been many other signs. Hostility gets worse as drug abuse continues.


Drugs cost money. For teenagers who do not have money to support their addiction, stealing may become habit. Theft is usually from a family member, but is not limited to family. Valuables may also be stolen to pawn for cash. Even if this sign is missing, there may still be a problem. Household items and cleaners can be used to achieve the same high as drugs.

Unusual Mood Changes

The teenage years are full of emotional ups and downs so mood changes alone do not signal drug abuse. Mood swings signal drug abuse when they impair a teenager's ability to function or the mood swings are violent. Extreme happiness or depression may indicate drug abuse. Having major mood shifts in short periods of time is also a sign of drug use.

Secretive Behavior

A teenager wanting more privacy is not unusual. But when teens begin lying about where they have been or where they are going it could be a sign of drug abuse. Another sign is repetitively keeping the door locked then taking too long to open the door. Smoke or chemical smells in a teen's room are other warning signs.

Symptoms of Drug Abuse

Symptoms of drug abuse vary depending on the type of drug. The most common symptoms are very high or low heart rate or blood pressure, excessive happiness and sleepiness, paranoia and irritability. Runny nose and watery eyes in the absence of a cold are symptoms of drug abuse as well.

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About the Author

Caroline Winnick began writing in 2008. She has published a book, "Suspicions Never Die," and has experience in wedding planning articles as well as cooking and homemaking articles. Caroline is currently attending Cape Fear Community College for an associate degree in business and English.