Warning Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Do you know the warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse? As a parent, you should!

Not my kid!

It can happen to you. We must understand that in modern society, every child is in danger of getting involved with drugs, nicotine or alcohol.

The mood swings and unpredictable behavior that most teens experience makes it difficult for parents to tell if a child is using drugs. The anti-drug education our kids get in school barely counters the "street education" they pick up from peers and our culture.

What are the signs that your child is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, or is at risk of doing so?

  • change of friends (be extra wary if new friendships develop with older teenagers or young adults
  • if a best friend uses drugs
  • careless about her personal appearance
  • a decline in participation at home
  • diminished interest in hobbies, sports, or favorite activities
  • irritability, overreacts to mild criticism or avoids family contact
  • eating and sleeping patterns have changed
  • lack of appreciation for values that used to be important
  • extreme emotional mood swings
  • secretive phone calls
  • lying
  • changes in school performance, tardiness, truancy, and/or disciplinary problems, frequently breaks curfews
  • Every child is at risk of being involved with drugs or alcohol. Do you know the warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse?missing money, personal belongings, prescription drugs or alcohol
  • trouble with the law, shoplifting, truancy, DUI, disorderly conduct
  • using street or drug language
  • eyes are red or glassy, or nose is runny, but no allergies
  • a family history of drug use or alcoholism
  • cigarette smoking can be an early sign that other substance use may be in the picture
  • you discover pipes (or bongs), rolling papers, medicine bottles, butane lighters, homemade pipes or other suspected drub paraphernalia


  • NIMH


next: Talking to Your Kids About Drugs and Alcohol

Last Updated: 18 March 2016

Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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