About Drug Abuse

Teenagers can be moody and often it is difficult to distinguish normal teenage moodiness from signs of drug use.  General indications that your teenager is using drugs include:


  • Changes in their behaviour, e.g.  Exaggerated efforts to bar family members from entering their rooms or knowing where they go or who they are with. Also, drastic changes in behaviour and in relationships with family and friends may be linked to drug abuse.
  • Sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation for its use may be a sign of drug abuse.  Money maybe stolen from previously safe places at home.  Items may disappear from your home because they’re being sold to support a drug habit.
  • Problems at school. Frequently missing school, a sudden disinterest in school or school activities, or a drop in grades may be indicators of drug use.
  • Physical health issues, such as lack of energy and motivation.
  • Neglected appearance.  Teenagers are generally concerned about how they look.  A lack of interest in clothing, grooming or looks may be a warning sign of drug use.


 Drug Abuse Awareness


Use of different drugs has different signs. Here are some of the commonly used drugs and signs of their misuse to be aware of.


Marijuana and hashish


Signs of use and dependence can include:


  • Less coordination.
  • Difficulty concentrating/ poor memory.
  • Bigger appetite.
  • Slow reaction time.
  • Paranoid thinking.
  • Heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Red eyes.


Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines


E.g. diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam, chlordiazepoxide (Librium) phenobarbital. If you’re prescribed these drugs, take them exactly as ordered.  If you feel your need for these medications is increasing, talk to your doctor.


Signs of use and dependence can include:


  • Drowsiness/ Slurred speech.
  • Less coordinated.
  • Confusion/ Memory problems.
  • Slowed breathing and decreased blood pressure.
  • Dizziness.
  • Depression.


Methamphetamine (“meth”), Cocaine and other stimulants.


Signs of use and dependence can include:


  • Euphoria/ Paranoia.
  • Decreased appetite/ weight loss.
  • Rapid speech/ restlessness.
  • Irritability.
  • Depression as the drug wears off.
  • Nasal congestion and damage to the mucous membrane of the nose in users who snort drugs.
  • Insomnia.
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and temperature.


Club drugs


E.g. ecstasy (MDMA), GHB. Rohynol. Although these drugs are different classes they share some similar effects


Signs of club drug use and dependence can include:


  • An exaggerated feeling of great happiness or well-being (euphoria).
  • Reduced inhibitions.
  • A heightened or altered sense of sight, sound and taste.
  • Amphetamine-like effects (with ketamine and Ecstasy).
  • Decreased coordination.
  • Memory problems or loss of memory or poor judgement.
  • Increased or decreased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness and loss of consciousness (with GHB and Rohypnol).
  • At high doses they may cause seizures, coma and death (particularly with alcohol).




E.g. LSD and Phencyclidine (PCP).


Signs of LSD use include:


  • Hallucinations.
  • Greatly reduced perception of reality, for example, interpreting input from one of your senses as another, such as hearing colours.
  • Permanent mental changes in perception.
  • Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure.
  • Tremors.
  • Flashbacks, a re-experience of the hallucinations — even years later.


Signs of PCP use include:


  • Hallucinations.
  • Euphoria/ Delusions/ Panic.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Depression.
  • Aggressive, possibly violent behaviour.




E.g. glue, paint thinners, correction fluid, felt tip marker fluid, gasoline, cleaning fluids and household aerosol products


  • The signs and symptoms of inhalant use vary depending on what substance is inhaled.  When inhaled, these products can cause brief intoxication and a decreased feeling of inhibition.  Long-term use may cause seizures and damage to the brain, liver and kidneys. Inhalant use can also cause death.


Narcotic Painkillers


Heroin, Morphine, Codeine, Methadone and Oxycodone (OxyContin).  If you’re prescribed these medications by a doctor, take them exactly as directed.  Don’t increase your dose without first talking to your doctor.


Signs of narcotic use and dependence can include:


  • Reduced sense of pain.
  • Sedation.
  • Depression.
  • Confusion.
  • Constipation.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Needle marks (if injecting drugs).


What to do if you think you or someone else has a drug problem.


If you think you or someone in your family has a drug abuse problem or their drug use is out of control, talk to your doctor.  If you are reluctant to talk to your doctor, help lines are a good place to get more information.


The sooner you seek help, the greater your chances are for a long-term recovery.


You should visit your doctor if:


  • You can’t stop using a drug.
  • Your drug use has led to unsafe behaviour.
  • Your drug use has caused harm to you or others
  • You think you may be having withdrawal symptoms.


Seek emergency help if you or someone you know has taken a drug and:


  • May have overdosed.
  • Loses consciousness.
  • Has trouble breathing.
  • Has a seizure.
  • Have signs of a heart attack, such as chest pain or pressure.
  • Has any other troublesome physical or psychological reaction to use of the drug.