Teen Substance Abuse Symptoms

Teenagers who turn moody, spend a lot of time in their rooms and lose interest in hobbies or sports are acting typical, right? True, but that kind of behavior can also be a sign that your child is using alcohol or other drugs. These symptoms may not necessarily mean your child has a drug problem. It could signal depression or an eating disorder. Here are some signs that might mean your child is abusing substances:

  • Drugs and drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, rolling papers, eye drops and butane lighters.
  • Seeming hostile and uncooperative.
  • Increased borrowing of money from parents or friends.
  • Stealing.
  • Moodiness.
  • Withdrawal, isolation, depression and fatigue.
  • Suddenly missing a lot of school or work.
  • Sudden resistance to discipline.
  • Unusual temper flare-ups.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and sports.
  • Change in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Associating with new friends who use drugs.
  • Loss of interest in appearance or drastic change in appearance.
  • Heightened secrecy about actions or possessions.
  • Change in sleeping or eating habits.
  • Frequent headaches, nosebleeds and other physical problems without an apparent reason.
  • Smell of chemicals or drugs.

Signs of addiction include:

  • A feeling that you need the drug all the time.
  • Keeping a supply of the drug.
  • Not being able to stop using the drug.
  • Feeling like you need the drug to cope with your emotions and problems.
  • Using the drug when you are driving.


A study of heavy marijuana smokers who are college students shows attention, memory and learning are affected, even after stopping for at least 24 hours, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The American Psychiatric Association says marijuana may cause panic attacks, paranoia and even psychosis (an extreme mental disorder), especially if users are having trouble with anxiety, depression or thinking. Marijuana used during the first month of breastfeeding can harm a baby’s motor skills.

Side effects of marijuana use are:

  • Frequent respiratory infections.
  • Trouble with memory and learning.
  • Faster heart rate.
  • Anxiety.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Poor judgment, such as getting into a car with other teens who are using marijuana.
  • Becoming physically dependent.

People who smoke the drug consistently may have the same respiratory problems as people who smoke tobacco. This kind of abuse can destroy lung tissue. Symptoms of chronic use may include:

  • Daily cough and phlegm.
  • Chronic bronchitis.
  • Frequent colds.


This drug may cause:

  • Confusion.
  • Depression.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Paranoia during and sometimes weeks after taking the drug.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Teeth clenching.
  • Nausea.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Rapid eye movement.
  • Feeling lightheaded.
  • Chills or sweating.
  • Faster heart rate and higher blood pressure.


The short-term effects of Rohypnol include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Memory problems.
  • Decreased blood pressure.
  • Dizziness.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Aggressive behavior in some people.


GHB is sedating. The drug can cause coma and seizures and, when used with methamphetamine, the risk of seizure increases. Combining other drugs such as alcohol can result in nausea and difficulty breathing. Withdrawal from the drug can cause insomnia, anxiety, tremors and sweating.

Special K (Ketamine)

Effect are:

  • Hallucinations.
  • Delirium.
  • Amnesia.
  • Poor motor function.
  • Possibly fatal respiratory problems.
  • Lost sense of time.
  • Lost sense of self.


Taken by an injection, the user has an extremely pleasurable sensation called a rush that lasts a few minutes. When taken through the mouth or nose, the person has a euphoric feeling, which is a high, but not the same as a rush. Addiction happens quickly.

Short-term effects include:

  • Feeling alert.
  • More energy.
  • Not feeling hungry.
  • Quick breathing.
  • Euphoria.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Confusion.
  • Tremors.
  • Convulsions.
  • Anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Aggressiveness.
  • Hyperthermia and convulsions that can lead to death.

Long-term use can cause:

  • Faster heart rate and high blood pressure.
  • Permanent damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Extreme anorexia.
  • Death.


The user may feel several emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. The drug may lead to delusions and visual hallucinations. Sense of time and self-changes. Users may feel like they are hearing colors or seeing sounds. These feelings can be scary. Symptoms include:

  • Terrifying thoughts and feelings.
  • Fear of losing control.
  • Fear of insanity and death.
  • Feelings of despair.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Higher body temperature.
  • Faster heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Sweating.
  • Not feeling hungry.
  • Insomnia.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Tremors.

Fatal accidents can happen while under the influence of LSD.


Inhalants may cause permanent damage to the brain, nerve cells, heart and lungs. Symptoms may include:

  • Heart palpitations.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headaches.
  • Unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing.
  • Spots or sores around the mouth.
  • Nausea or not feeling hungry.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Drunk or dazed appearance.
  • Red or runny eyes or nose.

Nearly all abused inhalants slow down the body’s functions and can cause intoxicating effects that can last for a few minutes or several hours. Users also feel slightly stimulated. Eventually, as they sniff more, they feel less in control. They may even pass out.

Sniffing a lot of chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can cause heart failure and death. This is particularly true of fluorocarbons and butane-type gases. These gases can cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs.

Permanent effects include:

  • Hearing loss from using paint sprays, glues, dewaxers, cleaning fluids and correction fluids.
  • Central nervous system or brain damage from paint sprays, glues and dewaxers.
  • Nerve damage in the arms and legs from glues, gasoline, whipping cream and gas cylinders.
  • Central nervous system or brain damage from paint sprays, glues and dewaxers.
  • Bone marrow damage from gasoline.
  • Liver and kidney damage from correction fluids and dry cleaning fluids.


If you see your teenager taking a lot of over-the-counter cold and flu medications, particularly if they aren’t sick, get them help. Also, look out for cough and cold medications that seem to disappear from the medicine cabinet or packages of cough and cold drugs in your teen’s room or backpack. Symptoms include:

  • Poor judgment.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea.
  • Hot flashes.
  • Feelings of being dissociated from the body.
  • Hallucinations.


The drug may cause:

  • Psychotic episodes.
  • Cardiovascular problems.
  • Severe psychological addiction.
  • High body temperature.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Fatal seizures.
  • Hostility.
  • Feelings of paranoia.


This drug may cause problems with breathing that may lead to death. Withdrawal may include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, vomiting, feeling cold and involuntary leg movements.

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines

In low doses, these drugs lower:

  • Anxiety.
  • Breathing rates.
  • Blood pressure.
  • Heart rate.
  • Rapid eye movement sleep (deep sleep).

In higher doses, these drugs can act like stimulants and lower inhibitions. They can also make the person very tired and can lead to coma and even death.


Effects may include:

  • Excessive and rapid muscle growth.
  • Increased aggression, even violent.
  • Extreme mood changes.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Restlessness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Irritability.
  • Mania.
  • Delusions.

Problems may eventually lead to a higher risk for heart attack, strokes and stunted growth.


When people stop using cocaine, they may become depressed. This depression sets up a vicious cycle because users try to alleviate the depression through the drug. Often more and more cocaine is needed to produce the same effect. Prolonged cocaine use can damage the nasal septum (a partition between the nasal cavities) and may cause it to collapse. Cocaine-related deaths are usually because the person had a heart attack or a seizure followed by not being able to breath.

Signs of cocaine abuse:

  • Disturbances in heart rhythm.
  • Increased heart and breathing rates.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Hyperactive.
  • Talkativeness.
  • Irritability.
  • Argumentativeness.
  • Nervousness.
  • Agitation.

If the person takes a lot of cocaine, these problems might also occur:

  • Loss of coordination.
  • Collapse.
  • Perspiration.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Dizziness.
  • Restlessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Delusions.
  • Heart attack.
  • Chest pain.
  • Respiratory failure.
  • Stroke.
  • Seizure.
  • Headache.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Paranoia.


Users may have:

  • A surge of euphoria, a sense of feeling good.
  • Warm flushing of the skin.
  • A dry mouth.
  • Heavy feeling in arms and legs.
  • Muddled thinking.
  • Alternations between wakeful and sleepy states.

Long-term use of heroin may lead to:

  • Collapsed veins.
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves.
  • Abscesses.
  • Cellulitis.
  • Liver disease.
  • Death.


  • Feelings of detachment and distance from the user’s surroundings.
  • Numbness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • A sense of strength and invulnerability.
  • A blank stare.
  • Rapid and involuntary eye movement.
  • Hearing things that aren’t there.
  • Severe mood changes.
  • Amnesia.
  • Sometimes anxiety, a feeling of impending doom or psychosis.
  • Rage and anger.

A low to moderate dose may cause:

  • Shallow breathing.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Numbness of the arms and legs.
  • Flushing.
  • Profuse sweating.

High doses may cause:

  • A drop in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Flicking up and down of the eyes.
  • Drooling.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Dizziness.
  • Illusions, delusions and hallucinations.
  • Speech is sparse and garbled.

Long-term use of PCP may lead to coma. Problems with long-term use may include:

  • Memory loss.
  • Speech problems.
  • Depression.
  • Weight loss.
  • Loss of motor skills.
  • Loss of short-term memory.
  • Mood disorders.


Effects depend on the dosage and the age of the mushrooms. Effects include:

  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Dilation of pupils.
  • Vivid and auditory hallucinations.
  • Emotional disturbances.