Your beautiful, delightful, clever, outgoing teenager has changed. They have become moody and introspective. They won’t talk to you anymore. If they do answer your questions, it’s only a surly one-word answer.

Is it teenage hormones that are raging as they grow and learn to cope with the world, or is it a symptom of something significantly more sinister? You may be worried that they are using drugs.

Teenagers are at risk

Whether we like it or not, and regardless of all the preparation taken to keep them safe, teenagers are at risk of drug use.

Whether it’s simply peer pressure to do what the popular kids are doing; whether it’s more about accessibility; or simply a desire to spread their wings and experience new things, teenagers don’t have the ability to always understand the consequences of their actions. In fact, they might not even perceive that there may be any consequences at all.

Seeing the signs

You can usually tell when a teenager has been smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol because you can smell it on their breath, their clothes and their hair. Look in your child’s eyes when they come home from being out. Are their pupils dilated? Is their expression glazed?

There are also signs which are less detectable, but still an indication of drug use.

Have your teen’s grades been slipping? Has he or she previously been a straight A student, but is now suddenly getting only C’s and D’s?

Have you noticed that cash is missing? Money for drugs needs to come from somewhere – is it from your wallet?

Is your teen hanging around with a new group of friends or refusing to tell you who they are going out with? A desire for a certain amount of privacy is natural, but there needs to be some communication between you and your teen, if only so that you can bail them out of trouble if necessary.

Another tell-tale sign of drug use is the lack of desire for something they once loved. If your teen used to live for playing sports, but now no longer wishes to participate for no apparent reason, this could be a clue to their recent activities.

You believe they are using drugs – now what?

This is a hard question to answer. Of course, your goal is to help them, but what should you really say or do? Overreacting may make the problem worse, while underreacting leaves your child vulnerable.

The initial step is commonly to sit and talk to your child, but this may be a dangerous road to take or at least a little too risky for your demeanor. Keep in mind that repeated drug use changes the way the brain functions and it might be impossible to deal with the situation without professional help. Sourcing out a professional is typically the best place to start.

Besides providing techniques on how to productively interact with your teen, professionals can also make a proper assessment of how serious the problem is at any given time. The situation may seem like a total disaster to you but may register much lower on a scale of disruptive behavior to a professional.

Searching their room

This is a topic plagued with difficulty. Your teen is anxious to assert their independence and you’re determined to support them.  Their room is theirs and it’s off-limits to you.

If you’re sufficiently concerned and feel that you must do a search, you’ll need to be ready to explain to them exactly what you’re doing and why, regardless of whether you tell them in advance or not. You will be much more ready for this conversation if you plan in advance just how you will react to their reactions.

If you do snoop, be thorough. You don’t want to miss something and effectively tell your teen that they are doing an excellent job of hiding stuff.

Make sure you’re ready for the conversation following your search. If you do find something, what are you planning to do next? If you don’t find anything, how do you find out what’s really going on with them? There are plenty of resources online to help you form a plan of action. Your job is to be prepared with a plan and to follow through to the end.