Identifying Drug Abuse in Students

Identifying Drug Abuse in Students

To prevent irreversible damage from drug addiction, early identification of drug abuse is required. It can be hard to imagine some students getting involved in drugs, but often small signs are visible for those watching for them.

Physical Signs of Drug Abuse

Different drugs create different physical symptoms such as the following:

  • Dilated (enlarged) pupils
  • Droopy eyes
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Greatly increased physical strength or endurance
  • Acne, scabs or other skin irritations
  • Constant sniffing
  • Sleepiness or inability to sleep
  • Lack of appetite
  • Broken or damaged teeth
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Needle marks
  • Slurred speech
  • Stumbling or other impaired motor skills
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent thirst

Possession of various items may also indicate drug abuse. While students may carefully hide possession of actual drugs or obvious paraphernalia such as syringes, some other relatively common materials may be left about, including these items:

  • High-powered lighters
  • Burned and crushed aluminum cans
  • Empty aerosol cans, glue tubes or paint containers
  • Broken glass (light bulbs)

Psychological Signs of Drug Abuse

While physical signs may be hidden, drug abuse almost always causes significant psychological or emotional changes that students will be unable to hide for very long. These changes can include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Defensiveness
  • Depression
  • Irrational exuberance
  • Lack of interest in previously important activities and relationships
  • Emotional volatility
  • Marked changes in grades (up or down)
  • Illogical speech
  • Dazed expressions
  • Marked changes in energy levels or attentiveness

Significant changes in a student’s energy levels, complexion or personality may be caused by hormonal issues related to puberty, but persistent changes could be a cause of concern. If combined with any of the previously mentioned physical symptoms action should be taken immediately.

What to Do If You Suspect Drug Abuse in a Student

Depending on your role in the student’s life your reaction to any suspicion of drug abuse may change. Schools often have very specific instructions for teachers and other faculty members. However, parents are often left to navigate this terrifying experience on their own. In general, if you suspect drug abuse in someone, you should take the following action:

  • Collect evidence of abuse without prejudice
  • Seek the advice and help of addiction professionals
  • Communicate your concern to other appropriate individuals
  • Follow through with whatever recovery help you can provide

It is important for you to understand that addiction is a disease that any student can develop. Some may have a biological predisposition toward dependency that is triggered by a prescription. Others may have been pressured into drug or alcohol abuse by friends. It is easy to assume a lack of character amongst drug abusers, but this is not always accurate and is rarely helpful in treatment.