It’s common for parents to worry about various aspects of their child’s life, but no parent wants to be in the position of worrying about whether or not their teen is using drugs or alcohol.
Drugs and alcohol can significantly impact a developing teenager’s brain in ways that do not necessarily affect an older adult. There are also other considerations such as legal repercussions, expulsion from school, tarnished records and the threat of physical, mental and emotional health.
Being equipped to recognize the signs of drug and alcohol use in a teen is a parent’s best resource to saving their son or daughter’s life—both figuratively and literally. If you’re a parent of a teen (or even a pre-teen), keep your eyes vigilantly peeled for the following red flags. Any one of these signs might signify drug or alcohol use in a teen.
Changes in Behavior
- Disinterest in hobbies
- New and unfamiliar friends
- “Munchies” or loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Sleeping too much or not as much as usual
- Sudden use of incense or other scented candles or oils
- Sudden use of eye drops, mouthwash, mints, gum or perfume
- A new desire for secrecy, like keeping their bedroom door locked
- Trembling hands
- Changes in speech (faster talking or slurring words, for example)
- Hangover symptoms
- "Nodding off"
- Worsened performance in school
Changes in Appearance
- Bloodshot eyes
- Disheveled clothing and/or hair
- Dark circles under eyes
- “Track marks” on the arms or other areas
- Sweating more than usual
- Weight gain or loss
- Clothing indicative of drug culture (graphics of marijuana leaves or liquor, for example)
- Missing money from your wallet or purse
- Mysterious charges on your credit card or other suspicious activity in your financial accounts
- Missing pills from medication bottles containing drugs that are categorized as addictive, like benzodiazepines or opioids
- Finding items that might be paraphernalia, like wrapping papers or lighters
- Calls to or from blocked numbers
- References to drugs or alcohol in texts, emails, social media statuses or other types of correspondence
If you suspect that your teen might be using drugs or alcohol, it is best to intervene as soon as possible. In order to handle the issue as effectively as possible, you can also enlist the help of a licensed therapist or medical professional who specializes in substance abuse in teens.