Teen Substance Abuse: Signs at Home

Topic Overview

Your teen's behavior at home will most likely be affected if he or she is drinking alcohol or taking other drugs. The following are some questions to ask yourself if you suspect substance use in your teen:

  • Has your teen recently developed a negative attitude and become less motivated toward activities such as sports or hobbies? Has he or she talked about suicide or running away?
  • Does your teen argue with you much more than usual? Is he or she more aggressive, more depressed, or prone to sudden mood changes?
  • Have you noticed a change in the way your teen dresses? Is he or she poorly groomed?
  • Does your teen avoid adults? Has he or she had encounters with the police?
  • Have you caught your teen lying or stealing? Does he or she seem to have extra money that you cannot account for?
  • Does your teen participate in fewer family activities?
  • Does your teen seem to be more sensitive about his or her privacy?
  • Is your teen away from home more than usual? Does your teen seem to use home as a stop-off place?
  • When you ask your teen where he or she has been, do you get a vague answer?

Many of the behaviors listed above are normal for teenagers. So it is helpful to look for changes in patterns of behavior along with any direct evidence of substance abuse. For example, a change in pattern might be that your teen's loss of interest in school and activities seems continuous instead of just on Monday mornings. And you might notice that your teen smells of alcohol or is now using eyedrops often.

If your teen has tried drugs or alcohol only a few times, then talking openly with him or her about this may be all that you need to do. But if your teen has a substance abuse problem, then he or she needs to be seen by a doctor, a counselor, or both.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last Revised July 20, 2012

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