a marijuana plant almost ready to harvest

You’ve come to suspect that your child or another loved one has started using marijuana. Maybe you’ve noticed a pungent smell on their clothes, or their eyes are bloodshot red. Or perhaps they’ve just been acting different, or you’ve found a pipe or rolling papers in their room.

Is your child doing it, or are they just hanging around with people who are? If they have tried it, was it just a one-time experiment, or are they on their way to a serious problem? How do you know?

Understanding the Signs of Drug Use

You should know you’re not alone, it’s a common situation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a national survey conducted in 2012 showed that over 111 million Americans over age 12 had tried pot at least one time, and 19 million had used it in the 30 days previous to the survey. Another 2013 NIDA survey of the nation’s schoolchildren in grades 8-12 showed an increased use of marijuana over the previous five years, with 12.7% of eighth graders reporting using the drug, 29.8% of tenth graders, and 22% of twelfth graders.

So the chances that your child or loved one has been or will be exposed to marijuana use are pretty good. Is that a reason to panic? No. If the numbers are even close to accurate, a majority of kids either don’t try it at all or don’t become regular users. But it is important to know the signs of regular use, and of addiction. Early intervention is crucial to prevent a more serious problem from developing.

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Use

The signs of marijuana use are pretty obvious if you know what you’re looking for. The signs will be the same for the derivatives of the marijuana plant, including hashish, hash oil, and the crystallized form of THC, the active ingredient that causes the user to feel a ‘high’. Those forms are more potent, so the symptoms of use will probably be more evident.


Depressed teenager with arms around his neck and hood on headStarting with basics, marijuana (also known as weed, grass, pot, ganja, and a dozen other names) is the dried leaves and buds of the cannabis sativa plant. It looks like green or brown crumbled leaves, usually kept in a sandwich bag. It’s normally smoked, either rolled in cigarette papers or in a pipe.


Hash is in a crumbly cake form, and hash oil is a dark, thick liquid. As noted above, the most noticeable signs are:

  • Extremely bloodshot eyes
  • A sickly sweet smell that clings to a user’s clothes
  • An increased heart rate
  • Heightened appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Trouble concentrating

In short, they act ‘stoned’. Anxiety, fear, and paranoia may also be apparent.

It’s not easy to hide these reactions. Long term users will usually begin to lose interest in favorite activities such as sports, and their grades may begin to suffer. You may notice them hanging out with a different group of friends. If you begin to see these signs on a regular basis, or even more than once, it’s time to take action.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Counselor Advising Couple On Relationship DifficultiesIf your child or loved one is exhibiting the symptoms of regular marijuana use, it’s important to seek the counsel of a professional. Marijuana is an addictive drug, and can cause serious psychological and emotional problems.

If you think there’s a problem, don’t wait to get help. The Delray Recovery Center can help you navigate through your options.


  1. No author, Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know, National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2014, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-parents-need-to-know/want-to-know-more-some-faqs-about-marijuana
  2. Melinda Ratini, DO, MS ,How Does Marijuana Affect You?, October 09, 2014, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/marijuana-use-and-its-effects