How do you know if your child is taking drugs?


Substance abuse poses an enormous social problem in South Africa with devastating impact on our society.  It exacerbates our chronic issues of poverty, crime, child abuse and gender violence.  According to the SA National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, 11.5% of pupils have tried at least one drug.

As a parent it can be extremely difficult to uncover that your child is using drugs, as users will generally take steps to hide their habit.  But most users will exhibit some of the following physical, psychological or social signs and symptoms:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Skin colour change or skin outbreaks
  • Intense urges or cravings as the addiction develops
  • Isolation, depression, anxiety and paranoia
  • Unhealthy friendships with people who have similar habits
  • Financial difficulties due to large amounts of money being spent on drugs or alcohol
  • Neglecting responsibilities such as work or personal obligations
  • Poor judgement, risky behaviours such as stealing, lying, unsafe sex, selling drugs
  • Poor or increased appetite
  • Poor self-care
  • Unexpected absence from home
  • Drop in school performance, “don’t care attitude”
  • Spending long periods alone in their room
  • Slow speech
  • Blood spotting on clothes
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sickly sweet pungent smell in their room or near them
  • Dilated or pinpoint pupils










Street names Ghanja/Zol




Spice (synthetic cannabinoids)


Thai (thai white)

Nyope (Dagga and heroin)







Crystal Meth


Globes and straws

How is it ingested? Smoked as a cigarette/joint, in a pipe or used in food (space cakes/muffin) Injected/spiked


Cocaine: snorting a “line” up the nose through a small tube or rolled up money

Crack:  smokable wax form of cocaine, heated up and fumes inhaled via tube

Smoked by heating crystals up in light bulbs and inhaling the fumes

Seldom injected

How does it make you feel?


Relaxed, happy, talkative, giggling

Tired, no energy

Food cravings (munchies)

Mood swings

Red eyes with dilated pupils


Nausea and vomiting


Poor co-ordination

Initial feelings of excitement followed by calmness.  Effects wear off in 3-5 hours, followed by withdrawal symptoms.

When high:


Constricted pupils

Droopy eyelids


Poor concentration

No interest in school

During withdrawals:

Excessive sweating

Agitated, insomnia, depression

Vomiting and diarrhoea

Rapid pulse

Uncontrolled kicking

Happy, excited, confident

Alert, not tired

Sexual interest

Improved concentration

High energy levels



Nose bleeds, sinus issues

Increased pulse, BP, temperature

Poor sleep

Dilated pupils




Cocaine bugs (crawling sensation on skin)

Increased pulse, BP and breathing

Dilated pupils

Poor appetite and weight loss

Agitation, excitement

Depression, anxiety and paranoia



During withdrawals:


Depression, Paranoia, Aggression


Can last several weeks after chronic use


If you suspect that your child is using drugs, a couple of steps can be taken.  Taking your child to the doctor for a check-up is probably a good idea.  You may even wish to discuss your concerns with your doctor and get their opinion.  Next, a discussion with your child is recommended. The child may not want to admit to the problem right away, as he may fear your reaction. So, don’t over-react and keep their best interests at heart.  A urine test may be used as a last resort in getting your child to admit the truth.

Your child may tell you that they “can handle it”.  Sadly, this is not the case.  All drug users feel they “can handle it” even confirmed addicts.  Part of the iron grip that drugs have is the illusion of control.  Your best course of action is to get help.  It is important to remember that there is most likely an underlying problem that caused your child to begin using drugs.  You need to get to the bottom of this before your child can recover.

Should you be concerned about yourself or someone you love taking drugs and wanting support with management of their drug addiction, please contact us at Blouberg Family Practice (021) 023 0480 or make an online appointment at for an assessment.