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How to tell if your college kid is using drugs

As a parent, it can be hard letting your child leave home for college. You hope you have prepared your son or daughter well for the responsibilities and challenges of life. Even if you have, the brain does not complete full rational development until the age of 25, says the University of Rochester Medical Center.

This means that even if your child has shown maturity and good judgment in the past, it is no guarantee the pattern will continue in a college environment. The stress of school, pressure from peers and distance from parents can lead any young adult to experiment with drugs, including prescription medication. How do you know if your college student is doing drugs?

Signs of drug use

Drug use occurs on a scale. Your child may only try it once or twice, in which case there are likely to be few signs. It is still important to warn your child of experimenting, as it only takes one time to get into legal trouble or accidentally overdose.

For abuse or addiction, you may notice these red flags:

  • Missing and/or failing classes
  • Lacking motivation
  • Exhibiting mood swings
  • Losing money
  • Sleeping during the day
  • Looking unhealthy or unhygienic 
  • Participating in other criminal activity

You may even find actual evidence among your child's possessions.

How to respond

If you suspect your college kid's involvement with drugs, you may feel powerless and not know what to do next. It is best to confront your son or daughter in a calm, loving manner. Offer professional and legal assistance to get his or her life back on track. Reassure your love and desire to see your child succeed in life.

Remind him or her of the immediate and long-term consequences of drug use, such as losing scholarships, limiting job opportunities and hurting one's mental health. You cannot force your child to listen or change, but you can set boundaries that encourage cooperation.

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