Changes in patterns of behavior, appearance, and attitudes may signal use of alcohol or other drugs by teens. In addition to obvious signs of use such as intoxication, possession of paraphernalia, or arrest, the following items listed are signs that may indicate use of either alcohol or other drugs, although some of the signs listed may relate to other serious problems.

Physical Deterioration:

  • Memory lapses, short attention span, difficulty in concentration
  • Poor physical coordination, slurred or incoherent speech.
  • Unhealthy appearance, indifference to hygiene and grooming.
  • Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils.

Dramatic Changes in School Performance:

  • Distinct downward turns in student’s grades, not just from C’s to F’s, but from A’s to C’s.
  • Assignments not completed.
  • Increased absenteeism and tardiness.

Changes in Behavior:

  • Withdrawal from the family.
  • Changes in friends, evasiveness in talking about new ones.
  • Increasing and inappropriate anger, hostility, irritability, secretiveness.
  • Reduced motivation, energy, self-discipline, self-esteem.
  • Diminished interest in extracurricular activities and hobbies
  • Chronic dishonesty (lying, cheating, stealing). Trouble with police.
  • Use of eye drops.
  • Sleeping more than usual and at unusual hours.
  • Car accidents, fender-benders.

Adapted from Prevention Plus II: Tools for Creating and Sustaining Drug-Free Communities, US Department of Health and Human Services, 1989