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21 Signs Your Teen Could Be Abusing Drugs Or Alcohol

Are you worried about a teenager? Are you concerned that they might be taking drugs or alcohol?

Parents and teachers can learn to spot the signs of substance abuse.

Here are 21 physical, emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms of adolescent drug and alcohol abuse:

  1. Overly sleepy  or “nodding out” in the classroom
  2. Whites of the eyes are red
  3. Unusually dilated or constricted pupils of the eye
  4. A undesirable change in peer group
  5. Coming in late to school or sneaking out early
  6. More aggressive or argumentative behavior
  7. Decline in grades
  8. Losing interest in favorite extra-curricular activities such as sports
  9. Changes in sleeping patterns
  10. Loss of appetite or other dramatic changes in eating
  11. Changes in weight
  12. Smelling of smoke, strong cologne, or drugs
  13. Lack of coordination (stumbling, falling, unable to perform easy tasks)
  14. Secretive
  15. Avoiding family functions
  16. Lying, making excuses for absences, lateness, etc.
  17. Memory problems
  18. Jittery or edginess
  19. Your money is missing
  20. Unusual or frequent coughing or vomiting
  21. Slurred speech

It’s extremely important that you bear in mind that any one or combination of these signs or symptoms could indicate physical or mental health issue. Some, such as being argumentative, could be just the ups and downs of being an adolescent. However if you reasonably suspect that a teen in your life is abusing drugs or alcohol, it needs to be addressed, which I’ll talk about in our next post.




21 Signs Your Teen Could Be Abusing Drugs Or Alcohol

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2018). 21 Signs Your Teen Could Be Abusing Drugs Or Alcohol. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Apr 2018
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