The teenage years are a time of intense learning, exploration and testing limits. These are important aspects of growing up but they are also associated with risks like drug and alcohol use. The most effective way to determine whether your child is using drugs or alcohol is to communicate with them regularly so you can quickly identify unusual behavior. However, all parents should also be on the lookout for other signs of drug use in teens, many of which can be seen in the bedroom.
Drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine are incredibly dangerous injectable drugs and teenagers who use them are at very high risk for serious, even fatal consequences. Blood stains on clothing or bedding may be indicative of drug injection, especially if they appear regularly but your teenager does not have an injury that could be responsible for the stains. If you notice bloodstains regularly, look for other signs of injectable drug use like bruising inside the elbow or on the feet.
Scorch marks on furniture, burned holes in clothing or burned fingers and lips are signs of teen crack cocaine use. If you notice unexplained scorch marks, look for other signs like butane torches, aluminum foil, spoons, lightbulbs and glass straws that have yellow or brown residue.
Youth smoking marijuana or using other drugs are likely to have eye drops available that reduce redness. If your teen uses eye drops frequently they may be hiding drug-related bloodshot eyes. Look for other signs of drug use such as unusual secrecy or evasiveness, skipping school, poor grades and paraphernalia like lighters, pipes and empty baggies.
Spoons are used to hold drugs so they can be heated up and inhaled. If you notice that your spoons are missing, you may want to look for them in your teenager’s bedroom or backpack. Of course, not all cases of spoons in a teenager’s bedroom indicate drug use; many parents have to round up days worth of dirty dishes from their kid’s bedroom.
But if spoons are the only dish in your kid’s room or the only dish you notice going missing, you should be concerned that they may be taking them in order to use drugs. Spoons that are scorched or discolored are a major red flag for dangerous drug use.
Air fresheners have long been a way for teenagers to try to hide scents associated with drug use. Teens who abuse marijuana are always looking for ways to get rid of the weed smell that lingers after they smoke it. If your teenager has air fresheners in their bedroom they may be trying to cover up their drug use.
Most drugs require some sort of paraphernalia and teenagers are very creative in terms of coming up with homemade drug paraphernalia.
Kids who smoke marijuana or other drugs are likely to have some telltale paraphernalia hidden in their bedroom. Smoking paraphernalia can be made out of a number of common household items. An empty soda can may be turned into a DIY smoking pipe and an empty plastic bottle can readily be turned into a DIY bong. If your teen has aluminum cans with holes and scorch marks or plastic bottles with strange attachments (like a small metal bowl), you should be concerned that they are smoking marijuana.
Other items that can be used to make homemade paraphernalia include empty milk jugs, PVC plastic, aluminum foil and emptied out ballpoint pens (to be used as straws). You should also keep an eye out for lighters, torches and vaping accessories.
Alcohol is by far the most commonly used drug among teenagers. Unfortunately, teen alcohol use is incredibly dangerous and can have long-term negative consequences on brain development. Some teens keep empty liquor bottles in their rooms, while others may stash small bottles of liquor that they drink secretly.
Drinking games with ping pong balls are very popular among teenagers. If your teen has ping pong balls and dozens of cups (particularly red Solo-style cups), there is a likelihood that they are participating in dangerous drinking games.
Common Hiding Spots
Teenagers can be very creative in how they hide drug and alcohol use but there are several common hiding spots in the bedroom that parents can check. Among the most popular places where kids hide drugs are:
- In dresser drawers
- In closets (look in pants pockets and inside shoes)
- Food packaging
- Jewelry boxes
- Under the mattress
- Window frames and air vents
- Inside empty hygiene product bottles
There are a number of products available online that look like regular containers but that are actually used to stash small items. Common examples are deodorant tubes, soda bottles and shaving cream cans that have screw-off bottoms.
Preventing Teen Substance Abuse
Communication between parents and teens is the most effective way to prevent teen substance abuse. It is important that teens feel comfortable going to their parents with questions and concerns about drugs. This means that parents need to be able to have open and non-judgemental conversations with their kids. It is often helpful for parents to think back to when they were teenagers and needed advice: What advice would have helped you?
It is worth noting that having honest, non-judgemental conversations does not mean that you never punish your child; rather, your child should understand that even if they risk punishment, they can always turn to you for sound advice. If your teenager is afraid that turning to you for advice will only result in them being punished, they are more likely to hide drug use from you.
If you are concerned that your teenager is using drugs or alcohol, a straightforward approach is to ask them directly. There are some tools that can help parents prepare for this uncomfortable conversation, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Family Checkup tool.
Professional help is available for parents who are worried that their kids are using drugs. Next Generation Village is a high-quality rehab facility that is dedicated to helping teenagers overcome drug and alcohol use disorders and we can help you re-establish a healthy relationship with your teen. Contact us today to learn more.
Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.