Skip to content

    Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

    Font Size

    Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse - Is Your Teen Using Alcohol or Drugs?

    Sometimes it's hard to tell if your teen is using alcohol or drugs. Parents may worry that their teens are involved with drugs or alcohol if they become withdrawn or negative. But these behaviors are common for teens going through challenging times.

    It's important not to accuse your teen unfairly. Try to find out why your teen's behavior has changed. Tell him or her that you are concerned.

    Experts recommend that parents look for a pattern or a number of changes in appearance, behavior, and attitude, not just one or two of the changes listed here.

    Change in appearance

    • Less attention paid to dressing and grooming
    • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
    • Red and glassy eyes and frequent use of eyedrops and breath mints

    Change in behavior

    • Decreased attendance and performance at school
    • Loss of interest in school, sports, or other activities
    • Newly developed secrecy, or deceptive or sneaky behavior
    • Withdrawal from family and friends
    • New friends and reluctance to introduce them
    • Lying or stealing

    Change in attitude

    • Disrespectful behavior
    • A mood or attitude that is getting worse
    • Lack of concern about the future

    Taking action

    Any use of alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs in childhood or the teen years is a problem, unless it turns out to be a one-time event. If you suspect or see signs that your teen is using substances, check it out. Don't wait for it to become a big problem.

    A home drug screening test provides immediate, early information about whether a urine sample contains drugs such as amphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. But it does not show which drug has been used, and some tests are inaccurate.

    actionset.gif Substance Abuse: Dealing With Teen Substance Use.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    child ignored by parents
    prescription pain pills
    Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
    Teen girl huddled outside house
    Man with glass of scotch
    overturned shot glass
    assortment of medication
    Depressed and hurting