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Drug signs and teenagers

Alternative Names

Teenagers and drugs

Information

Although some surveys suggest that drug use in teens has decreased since 2001, the numbers are still quite high. Over 17% of high school students admit use of illegal drugs within one month of when they were asked and more than 40% of those over 12 years old say that they have tried an illegal substance at least once.

Some signs of possible drug use include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Persistent cough
  • Pupils of eyes extremely big (dilated) or extremely small (pinpoint); nystagmus (rapid eye motion) might be a sign of PCP abuse
  • Loss of appetite (occurs with amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine use)
  • Increased appetite (with marijuana use)
  • Sluggishness, listlessness, or constant sleeping (opiate drugs such as heroine, codeine; or may occur when coming down off stimulant drugs)
  • Hyperactivity (as seen with "uppers" such as cocaine, methamphetamine)
  • Poor school performance and increased school absenteeism
  • Withdrawal from family and extracurricular activities
  • Change in group of friends
  • Unusual odor on breath (inhalant drugs)
  • Secretive behavior
  • Lying or stealing
  • Slow or slurred speech (downers and depressants)
  • Rapid, explosive speech (uppers)
  • Unsteady gait (ataxia)

Early intervention may decrease the likelihood that drug use will continue in this population.

See: Drug abuse and dependence and drug abuse

References

Jenkins RR, Adger H. Substance abuse. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 113.

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Preventing drug use among children and adolescents. NIH Publication No. 04-4212(B). 1997. Revised October 2003.


Review Date: 8/2/2009
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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