General Signs of Alcohol or Drug Use

Parents might observe the following behaviors in a child who is using alcohol or drugs. Click on the links below to see a specific example of this type of behavior.

School work has declined; grades suddenly slipping or dropping dramatically
Missing school (skipping secretly or too “tired” or “sick” to go)
Mood changes (irritable, crying jags)
Dropping out of usual activities (music, sports, hobbies)
Physical appearance changing (poor hygiene, unusual style changes)
Friends suddenly change; doesn’t introduce new friends
Money or valuables missing from parents’ purse, from home
Furtive or secretive behavior (e.g., bedroom door locked and takes long time to answer)
Hostile, aggressive outbursts
Seems to have “lost” motivation
Unusual sleeping habits (changing over time or dramatic change)
My child just doesn’t seem “right”

Parents who notice a shift from their child’s normal patterns and behavior that cannot be attributed to the ordinary stresses of adolescence and changing level of independence should pay particular attention to their child’s appearance, speech, and behavior. Their independence should not simply be allowed regardless of behavior, but should be dependent upon living up to certain basic expectations. If your teen now refuses to do chores, misses curfew regularly, creates a chaotic and hostile environment in the home, and frequently appears to be depressed, agitated, or “sleepy,” you should investigate further, maintain clear channels of communication, and set clear boundaries and rules.