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Article Summary

Warning Signs of Teen Substance Abuse

The following behaviors can be warning signs of problems related to alcohol or other drug use. Some of the warning signs listed below can also be signs of other problems.? Parents may recognize signs of trouble but should not be expected to make the diagnosis. Consulting a physician to rule out physical causes of the warning signs is a good first step.? This should often be followed or accompanied by a comprehensive evaluation by a drug rehabilitation professional.

  • Physical

    • Change in health or grooming
    • Fatigue
    • Frequent flu-like episodes, chest pains, "allergy" symptoms, chronic cough
    • Impaired ability to fight off common infections and fatigue
    • Impaired short-term memory
    • Red and glazed eyes
    • Repeated health complaints
  • Emotional

    • Apathy or general lack of interest
    • Change in personal priorities
    • Feelings of loneliness, paranoia, or depression
    • Irresponsible behavior
    • Irritability, anger, hostility
    • Low self-esteem
    • Personality change
    • Poor judgment
    • Sudden mood changes
  • Family Relationships

    • Breaking rules
    • Decreased interest in the family and family activities
    • Failure to provide specific answers to questions about activities
    • Increased money or poor justification of how money was spent
    • Lying and dishonesty
    • Negative attitude
    • Personal time that is unaccounted for
    • Secretiveness
    • Starting arguments
    • Unexplained disappearance of possessions in the home
    • Verbal (or physical) mistreatment of younger siblings
    • Withdrawing from family
  • School Activities

    • Attending parties with no parental supervision
    • Changes to a different style in dress and music
    • Decreased interest
    • Discipline problems
    • Dropping old friends
    • Irregular school attendance
    • Negative attitude
    • New friends who make poor decisions and are not interested in school or family activities
    • New group of friends
    • Not bringing friends home
    • Not returning home after school
    • Peer Relationships
    • Truancy
    • Unexplained drop in grades

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