Warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse

Learn about: Warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse from Michael Dennis, PhD,...
Warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse | Kids in the House
KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

Warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse

As a parent, you want to be really careful at looking for warning signs that your teen may have started using alcohol or other drugs. A lot of times, when they use, they may use it for one time and then not again for several weeks. They may use several times, but at a low level. They may be using several different things, so it's very hard to say is it this drug or that drug. Is it alcohol? A lot of it is co-occurring with mental health problems, so it's hard to say if it's depression and anxiety. Some of the signs a parent should watch for is a change in sleep patterns, the don't sleep well; a change in behavior, they're withdrawn or becoming angry a lot and fighting; a change in appearance, they're no longer taking care of themselves with their hair or their hygiene; they're no longer eating and they are becoming gaunt. You can see it physically in the sense that if their eyes are dilated or bloodshot, if they have a cough or a runny nose or a hoarse voice. These, of course, could be signs of other medical things, but that is a time where a parent should notice it and if it doesn't go away, intervene. That intervene may be asking them about alcohol and drug use, but it may also be about asking them about health or mental health. Some of the other signs you can watch for is if you see drug paraphernalia or bongs. Somebody who has a collection of bongs and says they don't use them, they are probably lying. If you suddenly see a lot of cans of beer or you see bottles in the trashcan that you didn't put there, that's a good sign that there is partying going on in the house somewhere. You may notice that the liquor in the house is becoming watered down. They may not just drink it, they may put a little water in it to try and make it look steady. Another thing you may notice is a change in their peers. If they've had a childhood friend that they don't hang out with anymore. That usually means that one or the other of them has pulled away and is doing something different. If they suddenly have a lot of friends that you don't know, that are older and don't seem to have a lot of supervision; that's another time of great risk. They are probably coming into contact with people who are using drugs and alcohol and have a greater availability of it.

Learn about: Warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse from Michael Dennis, PhD,...


Expert Bio

More from Expert

Michael Dennis, PhD


Michael Dennis, PhD, is a senior research psychologist and Director of the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) coordinating center at Chestnut Health Systems in Normal, Illinois. Over the past 25 years his primary area of research has been to better understand and manage addiction and recovery over the life course. This includes multiple clinical trials to compare the effectiveness of adolescent treatment approaches and recovery support services, longitudinal studies with adolescents, adults and older adults to understand the predictors of entering and sustaining recovery, and creating the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) coordinating center for teaching evidenced based assessment to support clinical decision making at the individual level and program evaluation. He has multiple awards for moving the field from science to practice, promoting diversity through practice based evidence and bringing more people into the field.

More Parenting Videos from Michael Dennis, PhD >
Enter your email to
download & subscribe
to our newsletter