How To Tell If Your Teenager Is Abusing Drugs Or Alcohol

If you've been suspecting that your teen has possibly been taking drugs or using alcohol, it can be challenging to find out for sure. Many teens will skirt around the topic when you ask or they may be in denial about having a chemical dependency issue. Teen drug abuse is very common. It's estimated that around 50 percent of all high school students have abused drugs by the time they are in the 12th grade. If your teen is too uncomfortable to discuss substance abuse issues with you, here are some signs that may indicate an underlying issue.


One of the first things you may notice is a drastic change in your teen's behavior. While most teens experience changes in behavior through their adolescent years due to hormone fluctuations, they generally bounce back to normal within a few days. If you're noticing long bouts of depression, anger or isolation, it's time to dig a little deeper and look for more signs of possible chemical dependency. Some of the most common behavioral issues related to drug and alcohol abuse include:

  • Violent or out-of-control outbursts
  • Stealing or borrowing money from others excessively
  • Fighting with family or classmates
  • Withdrawing from family activities, sports or hobbies
  • Isolation and secretive behaviors

Any type of behavior that seems out of the ordinary should be addressed one-on-one with your teenager. If they are in denial about their drug use, remind them that you will both be seeking counseling for the behavioral issues. Letting a professional address a possible drug issue may make it easier for your teen to open up.  

New Friend Circle

If you've noticed that your teenager has suddenly formed a new group of friends that he doesn't usually spend time with, this can definitely be a red flag. If the behavior that he is demonstrating these friends is volatile or non-productive, it may be an indication of possible alcohol or drug use. Ask to meet the new friends and see if they showcase similar behavior traits as your teen.

Physical Changes

Noticing striking physical changes that can't be explained through an illness or other lifestyle change, could be an indication of drug usage. Some signs may include:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Bloodshot or red eyes
  • Sudden bursts of energy
  • Insomnia
  • Significant tiredness and lethargy
  • Scars or scabs on arms or other areas of the body
  • Reddened or inflamed areas of skin

If your teen is having trouble concentrating, or he is slurring words, this could also be a sign of drug abuse.

Psychological Signs

Everyone is forgetful from time to time and with teens it shouldn't be a major concern unless it's substantial and happens repeatedly. Missing school or forgetting after-school activities may indicate that your teen has his mind elsewhere or is not able to focus properly due to his chemical dependency.

It's important to talk to your teenager about him having a possible substance abuse problem. Getting connected with drug and alcohol treatment specialists in your immediate area is the first step in getting the right type of drug addiction treatment. Talk to experts like for more information.