Warning Signs of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse by minors is not always obvious, but there are tell-tale signs parents or guardians should remain alert to. It's important not to jump to conclusions based on only one or two signs. Adolescence includes changes physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. These changes can lead to unusual behavior and moodiness, even when drugs or alcohol are not part of the equation.

Be alert to:

Personal items: breath mints, lighters, eye drops, pipes or vape devices

Household items missing: cash from your wallet, prescription medications, marijuana, alcohol

Physical: Sleeping in late, feeling ill after spending time with friends, bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils, change in speech patterns

Personality: stressed out, lack of energy, intense about going out with friends, grades dropping

Social life: not checking in, going to parties a lot, breaking curfew, not letting you meet their friends, discussions of substance use on social media.

What to do if you observe these warning signs:

First, make it clear that drinking and driving, or drugs and driving, are especially risky and that you are very concerned about this risk. Attempt to get agreement that no matter what, your student won’t get behind the wheel if he or she has been using drugs or alcohol. Same goes for getting in a car where the driver has been using substances.

Second, talking seriously, but positively, with your child if you observe warning signs is the best course of action. To do this, please refer to the Talk with Your Teen page.