5 Signs Your College-Aged Child May Be Selling Drugs

If you suspect your college-aged child may be involved in drug dealing or drug use, choosing how and when to intervene can be very stressful and complicated.  Your child is no longer a child under the law, and their choices now carry the weight of adult-level legal repercussions. You may also be concerned for their safety and the potential for addiction, and be uncomfortable with what and who they may be bringing into your home.  There are some signs to look for that can help you determine if your child may be involved in illegal activity, and from there you can choose to intervene if necessary.

Expensive Purchases

If your child suddenly starts buying excessive amounts of brand-name clothes and shoes, the latest smartphone, or even outlandish gifts for you or other members of the family, there may be a good reason to be suspicious of their source of income.  Most college students are either living off a modest allowance from their parents or working a part-time job that is unlikely to pay very well. If your child shows up with unexplained cash or lavish purchases or seems to be spending a lot on dining out with little concern for their budget, they may be making money through illegal means.  Even though your child is technically an adult, it may be necessary to question their cash supply or spending habits, especially if they are still living under your roof.    

Unusual Cell Phone Usage

Teens and young adults tend to spend a lot of time on their phones in general, but a college student who is dealing drugs may exhibit some unusual behavior on their cell phones.  They may receive calls and texts from random, unsaved numbers, or have several short conversations before leaving the house. This behavior can point to drug activity if they are getting calls inquiring about their supply or to organize drug drops.  Young adults acting in this way may also become extremely protective of their phones, never allowing you to see who they are texting or to borrow their phone in case someone undesirable calls while you are holding it.  

Somewhat “Off” New Friends

Most college students will make new friends in their first years at school, and this should be expected and encouraged.  It becomes a problem, however, if your child seems to suddenly drop all their old friends from childhood and high school, and be spending a lot of time around new faces that stop by for frequent short visits.  If your child is dealing drugs, they may refrain from spending time around old friends they know might disapprove, and those new friends may not be friends at all, but rather customers stopping by to make a purchase.  Even though your child is now technically an adult, it is still important to know their friends and talk to them about who they choose to spend their time with. 

Withdrawing from the Family

It is normal for college students to want to venture into the world and find their own path, and a little distance from home can be healthy and beneficial.  However, if you find your typically positive and loving child has become withdrawn and seems to be avoiding you and the rest of the family at all costs, they may be involved in something illegal or dangerous.  Of course, withdrawal alone does not necessarily point to drug dealing, but can also be indicative of a mental illness such as anxiety or depression. Either way, it is important to spot the signs of self-isolation and reach out to your child to see how best you can help them. 

Drastic Change in Mood

Observing a big change in your college-aged child’s demeanor or general mood can point to several problems, including the possibility of illegal activity like drug dealing.  If they are feeling nervous about their newfound occupation or as if they may have gotten themselves caught up in something they can’t walk away from, they may become paranoid or exhibit angry outbursts if they feel you are prying into their business.  These signs can also indicate drug use, which can occur on its own or as a result of drug dealing. Any major personality changes in your loved one should not be taken lightly, and by finding a way to communicate effectively with your son or daughter you can open the door for them to seek treatment before it is too late.


If you believe your college-aged child may be using or selling drugs, now is the time to reach out for help.  You can’t force a young adult to enter treatment for addiction or mental illness if they are unwilling, but by enlisting the help of experts you may be able to find effective strategies for communication and help your child help themselves.  At Burning Tree West, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals who specialize in helping young adults struggling with addiction and their families. Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives in a way that fosters lasting sobriety. We believe that practicing recovery doesn’t have to mean an end to educational or career goals, but instead can become a fundamental part of a successful and fulfilling life.  For more information on how we can help, call us now at  972-962-7374