The Warning Signs of Alcohol or Drug Abuse

As a parent, it is natural to worry about the safety and well-being of your children. Unfortunately, alcohol and drug abuse has become a growing concern among adolescents and teenagers, and knowing the warning signs can help parents intervene and prevent further emotional, psychological and physical harm.

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Here are some common warning signs of adolescent and teenage alcohol or drug abuse:

Physical Changes:

Physical changes can be the most noticeable red flag for parents. However, some of these changes can be attributed to other issues as well. The following are some of the physical changes that could potentially indicate substance abuse:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Physical fatigue
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Slurred speech

Behavioral Changes:

Adolescents and teenagers who are engaging in substance abuse may exhibit distinct changes in their behavior. These changes might include, but are not limited to:

  • Unexplained mood swings or changes in attitude
  • Inattentiveness or lack of focus
  • Lying or stealing – household money, valuables or prescriptions missing
  • Secretive behavior
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Skipping classes or entire school days or a sudden drop in grades
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Rude or hostile attitude and/or behavior toward others

Social Changes:

Adolescents and teenagers frequently place great importance on belonging and being accepted by their peers. Subsequently, social shifts can be another warning sign of alcohol or drug abuse. These changes may include:

  • Altering social circles or hanging out with a new group of friends
  • Spending less time with family
  • Uninterested in social activities that don’t include substances
  • Participating in reckless or risky behavior
  • Discarding typical interests in favor of hanging out with others who use substances

Psychological Changes:

Drug abuse can lead to distinct differences in adolescent and teenage behavior. These changes can be particularly difficult to recognize. Some of these psychological changes can include:

  • Signs of depression or extreme mood swings
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Lack of motivation or low energy
  • Agitation or excessive irritability
  • High levels of aggression
  • Struggling with concentration or memory
student experience peer pressure

In addition to becoming familiar with warning signs, it is also essential parents have an understanding and awareness of the types of substances typically abused by adolescents and teenagers. The most common substances abused are alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs. A review of these and other substances can be found in “Get Smart About Drugs”

Talking to your adolescent or teenager about substance abuse can be nerve-wracking for a parent. However, an open relationship will help your child make wiser decisions that will impact their lives positively and for the long-term. Most importantly, lead by example. Be a role model for your child by portraying healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices.

Recognizing the warning signs of adolescent or teenage alcohol or drug abuse is a vital part of preventing teenage addiction. More important, discussing these warning signs with your children and maintaining a healthy relationship with them while keeping a watchful eye will increase the chances your children will make informed decisions that will lead them down a path of sobriety.