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Raising a Responsible Adolescent

Teens and Alcohol

Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers

How to Say It to Teens: Talking about the Most Important Topics in Their Lives

by Katrina Day Wester

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. They think their child is using drugs. I’m not talking about weed; I’m talking about the scary stuff -- Special K (Ketamine), H or Smack (Heroin), X (Ecstasy), Roofies (Rohypnol) and more. How can you tell if your child is using these types of drugs and what do you do?

If your child exhibits one or more of these signs and you have eliminated normal causes, then you might be correct in assuming that your child is using drugs.

  • Depression
  • Weakness and lack of muscular coordination .
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Trembling
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Facial flushing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Inhibition
  • Amnesia
  • Problems remembering things they recently said or did
  • Loss of coordination, dizziness, fainting
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Sleep problems
  • Chills or sweating
  • Slurred speech

Even if you did drugs as a teen, you might not be able to recognize the signs of drug use today. Many of the drugs are different.

Club drugs known as X, XTC, K, Roofies are often made in home laboratories so the true make up of the drug is somewhat different and the effects can vary. Here are some of the dangers to discuss with your teen:

  • Brain Damage: You’re not lying when you tell your teen that using drugs can cause brain damage. Club drugs can damage the neurons in your brain, impairing your senses, memory, judgment, and coordination. In fact, it’s been found that regular use of ecstasy produces long-lasting, perhaps permanent damage to the brain’s ability to think and store memories.
  • Loss of Control: Side effects include loss of muscle and motor control, blurred vision, seizures, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Some drugs such as GHB, are depressants that can cause drowsiness, unconsciousness, or breathing problems.
  • Date Rape: Rohypol or Roofies are used in “date rape” because they are sedatives that can make you unconscious and immobilize you. Rohypnol can cause a kind of amnesia. One scary thing about this drug is that you wouldn’t even know if it was slipped into your drink – it’s odorless and tasteless. If your daughter is going to a club, make sure she knows the risks and NEVER leaves her drink unattended or accepts a drink from someone she doesn’t know and trust.
  • Death: Club drugs can kill you. Higher doses of club drugs can cause severe breathing problems, coma, or even death.


Parents can help through early education about drugs, open communication, good role modeling, and early recognition if problems are developing.
To repeat, warning signs of teenage substance abuse may include:

  • Physical: Fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes, and a lasting cough.
  • Emotional: Personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression, and a general lack of interest
  • Family: Starting arguments, breaking rules, or withdrawing from the family.
  • School: Decreased interests, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy, and discipline problems.

Social problems new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities, problems with the law, and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music.

Some of the warning signs listed above can also be signs of other problems. Parents may recognize signs of trouble but should not be expected to make the diagnosis. An effective way for parents to show care and concern is to openly discuss the use and possible abuse of alcohol and other drugs with their teenager.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) The Facts for Families©
M.A.D.D. (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) http://www.madd.org
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Alcohol and Drug Information) http://www.health.org


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