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How Do I Know?

Since some of the signs of drug use can be viewed as normal adolescent behavior, the job of identifying them can be difficult. If parents are aware of the presence of more than a few signs, it is an indication that there may be a problem. The best way to help is know the signs and symptoms.

Initially, the signs of problems are often very subtle and can go unnoticed. If more than a few of the signs listed below are present, such a combination of changes could indicate a serious problem. Signs of alcohol, tobacco or other drug use can include:

Personality or Behavioral Changes

  • Lack of interest in school, sports or other activities that used to be important
  • Withdrawal, isolation from family or friends
  • Lack of cooperation/defies rules
  • Slipping grades/absent often
  • More irritable or argumentative
  • Memory lapses, poor concentration, change in motivation to perform
  • Increased need for money
  • Sudden concern for privacy of things
  • Change in friends/avoids old friends
  • Change in attitudes about tobacco, alcohol or other drugs
  • Vague about whereabouts

Physical Changes

  • Loss of appetite/continually hungry
  • Weight loss or gain/bruises
  • Runny nose/eyes, frequent colds, fevers
  • Blood shot eyes/dilated pupils
  • Smell of alcohol on breath, or sudden, frequent use of breath mints
  • Frequent diarrhea, sweats, muscle aches

If more than a few of the changes listed above are present and you think your child may be drinking, smoking or using other drugs, talk to him. If you need help with this, contact your doctor, school counselor, or your local hospital. A professional assessment can help determine if there is a problem and recommend an appropriate course of action.

All parents today need to be aware that addiction can and does happen to teens. Addiction is the repetitive compulsive use of a substance that occurs despite negative consequences to the user. Addiction is a disease – it is chronic and progressive and it may require professional help.

You can learn more about this in our booklet: “A Parent’s Guide for the Prevention of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use”, on page 16 and in our “On Line Parent’s Guide” e-Learning Course – Sections “Signs and Symptoms” and “Other Negative Effects”.