WARNING SIGNSTeens will abuse alcohol for a variety of reasons, but how can you tell if your teen is at risk? What sort of warning signs should you look out for?
- Teens who have a family history of alcohol abuse – Teens who have close relatives that abuse alcohol are at a higher risk of developing this problem themselves.
- Teens suffering from depression or other anxiety disorders.
- Teens who feel the need to “fit in” or who easily succumb to peer pressure.
- Teens who suffer from low self-esteem.
- Teens who have close friends that abuse alcohol
- Teens who have suffered any childhood trauma
Teens who are experiencing a problem with alcohol abuse will tend to exhibit many similar warning signs. Teens will typically show some of these signs under normal circumstances. For this reason, it’s best to keep the communication lines open with your teen to help distinguish between normal teen behavior and a possible alcohol abuse issue. Signs can be either related to physical changes or can be socially/emotionally related.
Physical Signs of Alcohol Abuse
- Red/blood shot eyes
- Persistent cough
- Increased fatigue/sleep problems
- Changes in weight (increase or decrease)
- Unexplained injuries (could be caused by accidents that occur while drinking)
- Frequent headaches, nausea, sensitivity to sound (especially in the morning due to hangover)
- Other drug use, including cigarette smoking
- Slurred speech/unable to communicate effectively
- Lack of concentration
- Blackouts – unable to account for specific periods of time
Social/Emotional Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse
- Withdrawal from family – spending more time alone away from family members and less communication.
- Loss of interest in previous hobbies/activities
- Mood Swings – including irritability, quick to anger and overly defensive
- Change in the choice of friends/peer group – not introducing new friends to you
- Problems at school – falling grades, complaints from teachers/staff, reports of cutting class and absences (may be harder to detect)
- Problems with the law
- Goes out with friends a lot/attends many parties (may be harder to detect)
- Secretive behavior – hiding things from you, locking bedroom door, not telling you who their friends are or where they are going
- Running away
Be aware of your own personal supply of alcohol if you have any at home. Teens may not have the funds to get their own alcohol, so any missing alcohol or any missing money are signs to watch out for as well.
If you witness any of the above mentioned warning signs and believe your troubled teen has an issue with alcohol, be sure to get help as soon as possible. Even if they don’t have a problem with alcohol specifically, they may have other issues that need addressing. Since teenagers don’t always like to divulge too much information to parents, see if they will open up to another close family member or to your family doctor/mental health professional. Alcohol abuse can quickly turn into alcoholism so they need to get help before it turns into a much bigger problem.
Teen drug use is a big problem for today’s family. Parents of this generation need help sorting through the fast pace world that their teen lives in.
Please note that even though some of these warning signs of drug abuse may be present in your teen, it does not mean that they are definitely abusing drugs. There are other causes for some of these behaviors. Even the life stage of adolescence is a valid reason for many of them to exist. However, do not ignore the warning signs of teenage drug abuse. If six of these signs, (not all in the same category), are present for a period of time, you should talk to your teen and seek some professional help.
Signs in the Home
- loss of interest in family activities
- disrespect for family rules
- withdrawal from responsibilities
- verbally or physically abusive
- sudden increase or decrease in appetite
- disappearance of valuable items or money
- not coming home on time
- not telling you where they are going
- constant excuses for behavior
- spending a lot of time in their rooms
- lies about activities
- finding the following: cigarette rolling papers, pipes, roach clips, small glass vials, plastic baggies, remnants of drugs (seeds, etc.)
Signs at School
- sudden drop in grades
- truancy or always being late to school
- loss of interest in learning
- sleeping in class
- poor work performance
- not doing homework
- defiant of authority
- poor attitude toward sports or other extracurricular activities
- reduced memory and attention span
- not informing you of teacher meetings, open houses, etc.
Physical and Emotional Signs
- changes friends
- smell of alcohol or marijuana on breath or body
- unexplainable mood swings and behavior
- negative, argumentative, paranoid or confused, destructive, anxious
- over-reacts to criticism acts rebellious
- sharing few if any of their personal problems
- doesn’t seem as happy as they used to be
- overly tired or hyperactive
- drastic weight loss or gain
- unhappy and depressed
- cheats, steals
- always needs money, or has excessive amounts of money
- sloppiness in appearance
Local Resources for substance abuse issues/counseling
Community Mercy REACH – Alcohol, Drug, and Tobacco Treatment Programs
904 Scioto Street, Urbana, OH 43078
30 West McCreight Ave., Suite 204, Springfield, OH
Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services Board of Logan and Champaign Counties
1521 N Detroit St.
West Liberty, OH 43357
Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator or 1-800-662-HELP
AA, NA, Al-Anon (regional)
1-888-696-9525 or 1-800-870-3795