How would I know if my child is using drugs?

Often there are not any clear signs that a person is using drugs. The following are things to look out for, but remember that most of these can occur for lots of different reasons and may be unrelated to drug use. 

  • Changes in usual behaviours like loss of interest in school, hobbies, friends
  • Changes in appetite and sleep 
  • Mood swings and irritability 
  • Missing money or valuables or accruing debts 
  • Find substances or materials for using substances - lighters, cigarette papers, grinders, scales

Why do young people use drugs?

Despite what popular media may have us believe, the majority of young people do not use drugs, and the majority of those who do will not go on to have a drug problem in adulthood.

There are many different reasons that young people use drugs and alcohol, below are just a few:

  • To relax
  • To cope with stress or worries/ anxiety or low mood
  • To rebel or be different 
  • To fit in with peers 
  • To feel more confident
  • To satisfy curiosity

How do I talk to my child about drugs or alcohol?

The following tips can help your chat about drugs and/or alcohol to go smoothly:

  • Firstly, it helps if you do a bit of reading first, so you know a bit about drugs and alcohol. Try the FRANK website.
  • Pick the right time - don't do it just after an argument, or whilst they are engrossed in their X-box game!
  • Chats like this can be really stressful, but try to stay calm. The more calm you are, the more the conversation will be open and honest
  • If you want your child to talk to you about whether they use drugs/alcohol, try to set the tone as one of caring curiosity, letting them know that you are there for them whatever they say, rather than accusing them, or demanding that they talk to you (this often has the opposite effect to that desired!)

How can I encourage my child to see CASUS?

It can help to:

  • Show them our website so that they can get an idea of what we do, and what we are like
  • Remind them that we are happy to see them at home, at school, at our offices or even in Subway - which ever they find most comfortable
  • Suggest that they agree to just one appointment to begin with, and then make up their mind from there
  • Talk to them about their drug/ alcohol use and help them to think about whether or not they want to make any changes to it


The page was last updated on 14 May 2019 by andrea.bateman.


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Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

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