It is common for adolescents to experiment with alcohol, nicotine, and drugs. It is also quite common for youth to try to conceal their use from their family. Alcohol and drug use are most effectively interrupted, decreased, or completely stopped when the signs are identified and support and education is provided at an early stage.
These are some common indicators of alcohol and drug use.
- Unexplained changes in behavior, mood, or interests can be indicators that the youth is being influenced by a substance.
- Frequent lying, secrecy, and hiding things may be indicators that the youth is afraid they be “in trouble”. Separation and pushing away from parents is part of adolescent development, so it is important to note leap to judgment.
- Remarkable changes in energy and sleep patterns, such as very low energy, drowsiness and lethargy, or very high energy, talkativeness, or being awake for several nights. It is important to note that most teens need more sleep than they did when they were younger, their rhythms can be quite different than adults, and school and social pressures can lead to late nights or catching up on sleep on weekends.
- Behavioral indications of use, such as slurring of words, grinding teeth, shaking hands, red eyes, unexplained laughter, morning headaches or hangover signs,
- Physical indications such as tobacco or marijuana smells on clothing, burned fingers (from holding a lighter or touching a hot pipe), discoloration around the mouth (from huffing), or needle tracks.
- Paraphernalia, such as a lighter or torch, roach clip, vaping pen, pipe, cleaning tools, min or bent spoon, bong, disassembled pen, or razor.
There is a tremendous amount of information on the internet about teen alcohol and drug use, much of which can be scary for a parent to consider. It is important to approach the issue with objectivity and concern, as things can easily be made much worse if the youth feels ashamed, threatened, or overwhelmed.