Homeschoolers are not immune from the parenting woes the rest of society is facing. Our children live in the real world, no matter how much we love them and shelter them. And in the real world, drug overdoses are increasing, with deaths from drug use surging. As a nurse, I've seen wonderful parents suffer consequences when their head was in the sand, though. Wishful thinking and prayer can't prevent bad choices - kids can still make their own decisions.
Let's consider one of the most challenging aspects of parenting today. What symptoms should parents look for that indicate drug use?
1. Finding drug paraphernalia (which may include pipes, rolling papers, needles, bottles, unusual containers, eye drops, butane lighters, smoking devices, cut up straws, mirrors, Ziploc bags, tin foil, weighing scales, balloons, aluminum foil wrappers, vials, capsules, etc.) or drug residue or remains (for example seeds, stems, powder, or strange-looking cigarettes)
2. Accidents or injuries
3. Acting secretive
4. Appetite changes
5. Avoiding eye contact
6. Becoming defiant, uncooperative, hostile
7. Being fearful or paranoid for no apparent reason
8. Being unusually loud and obnoxious
9. Bloodshot eyes
10. Bruises, cuts, and sores (caused by falling, bumping into things, or scratching self)
11. Burns on fingers or lips (from joints or burning)
12. Changing friends or social circles
13. Complaints from teachers, classmates, or others
14. Constant scratching (a common sign of opiate use)
16. Coordination problems
17. Decreased interest in activities and hobbies
18. Decreased motivation in school or activities
19. Excessive thirst ("cottonmouth" is often a result of marijuana use)
20. Extreme highs and lows
21. Finding hidden stashes of drugs or alcohol or drug making paraphernalia
22. Frequent illness
23. Frequent mood swings or emotional instability
24. Getting into conflicts or having trouble with schoolwork
26. Increased illegal activity or behavior
27. Isolating themselves from friends or family
28. Lack of respect for authority
29. Laughing for no apparent reason
30. Lethargy or low energy
31. Manipulative or deceitful behavior
32. Memory problems
33. Missing cash or other valuables from your home (which may be pawned for drugs)
34. Missing medications, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.
35. Missing school assignments or extracurricular activities
36. Nausea and vomiting
37. Newfound demand for privacy
38. Nosebleeds (may occur from snorting or drugs like cocaine
39. Periods of drowsiness followed by periods of high energy
40. Pinpoint pupils (a common sign of opiate use)
41. Poor academic performance
42. Poor concentration
43. Poor coordination
44. Poor hygiene
45. Runny nose
46. Seizures (if no history of a seizure disorder)
47. Shakes or tremors
48. Sleep disturbances
49. Slurred or rapid-fire speech
50. Smelling like drugs, alcohol, or unusual odors
51. Smelling strong incense or perfumes in their room (to hide the smell of drugs)
52. Sudden weight loss or gain
54. Teeth clenching
55. Track marks on arms or legs from intravenous drug use
56. Unexplained changes in attitude or personality
57. Unexplained disappearances for significant periods of time
58. Violating curfew and ignoring rules
59. Wearing long sleeves even in the summer (to cover up track marks)
Having some symptoms does not mean your child is addicted to drugs. There can be circumstances beyond your teens control. Perhaps a friend has left some drug paraphernalia in a car, or they were loaned or purchased used equipment that had hidden drug paraphernalia in it.
Still, as parents, it would be negligent if we didn't do our due diligence. So here is what you need to do.
1. Understand what to look for using this list of symptoms.
2. Observe your child intentionally, without discounting the possibility of drug use.
3. Ask your child open-ended questions and start a conversation.
4. Seek help if needed, starting with your pediatrician.
Even good homeschool parents can have a child that makes poor life choices. Don't beat yourself up! Even perfect parents can't guarantee that a child will always make good choices. Instead, starting now, open your eyes. Make changes if you identify a problem.