Substance abuse signs


New Member
Hey everyone--This is gonna be a long one! I found something very....well, funny! I laughed, I don't know if you will!

Signs and Symptoms

Adolescents who are using alcohol and other mood altering drugs, which will hereinafter be referred to simply as chemicals, very often exhibit clear evidence of this behavior in ways that may go unnoticed by the inexperienced parent or other caring adult. The early changes occur subtly and are often mistaken for so-called “normal” adolescent behavior. Indeed, taken individually, many of these changes are normal and harmless. It is when they are observed to be part of a broad pattern or are carried to extremes that our suspicions need to be aroused. Parents of recognized users of chemicals have become aware that their children have shown symptoms of this disease in a variety of ways over an extended period of time. What follows is an effort to provide the uninitiated parent with a little bit of “instant expertise” in the hope that they may be able to recognize a developing problem before it reaches unmanageable proportions.

It must be emphasized that a young person should not be assumed to be using chemicals simply because he exhibits one or two, or even a few, of the characteristics set forth. Excessive thirst, for instance, could be a symptom of an unrelated physical illness. Nor can it be assumed that he or she is not in danger because they fail to exhibit all of the following indicators. A young person may, for example, dress neatly and keep up his/her grades and still be deeply involved with chemicals. But if you can relate the behavior of your son or daughter, or other young person you care for, to a significant portion of the pattern, you would be well advised to sharpen your senses and your observations. Also, consider the possibility that he or she is endangering their health, or even their life. Hiding from the truth is not an effective way to handle the situation.

Behavior and Personality

  • Display irregular sleep patterns - will stay up late, or be unable to go to sleep, then be difficult to arouse in the morning; habitually nap right after school.
  • Display irregular eating patterns - eat poorly at meals, then “binge” on junk food at odd hours.
  • May have great shifts in mood, seeming very depressed one day and very animated the next; have temper outbursts.
  • May seem agitated or nervous, being unable to sit still, and frequently show nervous habits such as bouncing a foot or knee.
  • May be caught staring, seemingly unaware of surroundings.
  • May laugh when there seems to be no reason to do so.
  • Have an excessive thirst - will consume great quantities of all kinds of soft drinks.
  • Chew gum most of the time.
  • May smoke cigarettes; may carry cigarette papers.
  • May burn incense in room.
  • May prefer hard rock music played very loud; like to listen in darkness or subdued light.
  • May shun jackets and coats OR may wear a jacket all the time.
  • Are always broke OR have more money than seems logical.
  • Receive many telephone calls and/or visits from persons unfamiliar to parents - receive phone calls in the morning before school.
  • Become secretive - telephone conversations are whispered; girls keep their purses close at hand; regularly lock doors to bedroom and bathroom.
  • Have a poor self-image - dislike having picture taken.
  • Are very forgetful.
  • Express the feeling that parents and teachers are always against them and that they would be just fine if everybody would leave them alone.
  • May have slow drawn out speech OR may talk loudly and at length and really say nothing.
  • May leave for school early and come home late; may insist on going to school, even when ill, and then cut classes.
  • Frequently leave excessively early for football games or other evening activities.
  • Will defend the use of alcohol and other drugs when the subject is brought up.
  • When parents are going out they will press to know what time you are leaving and when you will be returning.
  • Are anxious, even desperate, to be out with friends.
  • Are bored with school functions.
  • Are not afraid of anything; are always looking for a greater thrill - always seeking a higher roller coaster or a scarier movie.
  • Frequently indicate they have left movies, ball games, etc., early for one reason or another.
  • Stay out past curfew.
  • Go straight to bed upon returning home in the evening.
  • Will avoid making eye contact.
  • Are frequently disciplined for disruptive behavior in school.
  • May receive citations for law-breaking activities which appear not to be related to use of chemicals; may receive excessive traffic citations.
  • Mother may find unidentified plants growing in the garden or among houseplants.
  • Books, notebooks and other papers are frequently “decorated” with drawings of leafy plants, mushrooms, pipes, pills and other mysterious objects and words.
  • May write stories, plays, poems concerning use of chemicals; may write poems, etc. which display a depressed attitude toward life.
  • May go for unexpected, solitary walks.
  • Conversation may include many so-called “four-letter words.”;
Interpersonal Relationships

  • Family
  • Isolates self from family - shuts self away in room; avoids all family functions, including family vacations.
  • Constantly creates disturbances in family.
  • Antagonistic toward parents - especially those who try to maintain discipline and other acceptable standards of behavior.
  • May be verbally or even physically abusive, especially of brothers and sisters.
  • Reject any displays of affection.
  • Are unappreciative - expect things to be done for them; are little tyrants.

  • Friends keep changing - old ones drop off and are replaced by others, usually less desirable.
  • Have difficulty in getting along even with people they consider to be good friends.
  • Do not bring their friends home.
  • Are antagonistic toward school personnel.
  • Are resentful, critical, and cynical of authority figures.

Work Habits

  • Are irresponsible - cannot successfully carry out responsibilities appropriate to their age group; constantly procrastinate.
  • Grades drop - a previously bright student gradually finds it impossible to cope with school.
  • Refuses to accept any responsibility for household chores, responding to requests for help with an indignant, “Why should I have to ...?” Will not keep their room clean but don’t want you to clean it either.
  • Cannot keep a part time job.
Dress and Personal Appearance
  • The emphasis in dress is on what is deemed to be comfortable. Some teens will adopt their own bizarre or extraordinary styles.
  • Regardless of style, clothes frequently suffer stains, tears or other accidents.
  • Pockets of clothes turned in for laundering may contain small, round, brown seeds.
  • Hair may be kept clean but is worn too long and often too much over the face in a conscious or unconscious attempt to hide from people – hair may be unkempt even though teen makes ineffective attempts to do something about it.
  • Girls tend to wear too much make-up.
  • May shower more often and for greater lengths of time than seem reasonable.
  • Have bitten fingernails.
  • Eyes are frequently red or have dilated pupils or a glassy appearance.
  • May have constant unexplained sniffing or coughing.
  • Regularly use mouthwash and/or Visine - carry Visine in pocket or purse.
  • Changes in facial appearance may occur, such as swelling, drooping of cheeks or eyelids, redness of skin.

Favorite Alibis and Defenses

  • THE favorite - I’m keeping it for a friend.
  • Don’t you think I know better?
  • Don’t you trust me?
  • I’m just in a good mood-can’t I be in a good mood?
  • It’s my room. Can’t I have a little privacy?
  • I’m just tired.
  • It’s a new after shave (perfume).
  • I only had a taste.
  • Somebody spilled it on me.
  • Somebody else was smoking - my clothes picked up the smell.
  • My eyes are red from swimming.
  • You’re always against me.
  • I couldn’t find a telephone.
  • My friend left without me and I didn’t have any way to get home.

I'm half-amused, half-horrified. That list includes every single "typical teen" behavior pattern that I'm aware of. In fact, MOST of it describes me as a teenager, PERFECTLY! And I was a sober and clean teenager.

I understand that they say the list isn't perfect (and i know they mean well!!)---but THIS list is a list of mainly just teenage normalcy, with a few ultra-obvious drug-use signs thrown in. Sure, teens using drugs also fit this list....because they're teens!

A few of the funnier examples:
"Irregular sleep patterns" - Yep! I'd stay up late, listening to "Loveline" with Dr. Drew, talking to my boyfriend on the phone, or more usually: reading a book. I'd chat on the internet until all hours of the morning, then grumpily roll out of bed at 6am for school. Obviously, my friends were all doing the same--we were talking to each other! None of us were using. :)

"May become secretive" - Oh lord. I clammed up when I hit 15 or far as my parents know, I didn't have a single boyfriend in high school. I found no benefits to telling them--easier to just not cop to it, and avoid the "discussions". And I got along with my parents! Not to mention the fact that most of my conversations with friends were a tad "risque" and I didn't want my parents to hear. Or involved a lot of swearing (which is ALSO on the list of drug-use signs!!).

"Have a poor self-image, dislikes pictures being taken" - I can't honestly think of a single teenage girl who LIKES her parents taking pictures of her (Parents: Oh, c'mon, honey, smile, where's that smile that we love so much? Aren't we a little grumpy-puss today! Smile, honey! - Teen: AGGHGHGH). We all LOVED taking pictures of/with our friends, didn't we? But come Christmas, we ALL hid from Mom's camera when opening presents. :) And hell---most teen girls ALSO have self-image issues, anyway!!

Here's my 2nd fav:" May become bored at school functions" - Bwahahaha.

But here's the real golden oldie: "May write poems, etc that display a depressed attitude toward life." Oh. my. god. I can't even LOOK at my old journals without shuddering. Hahha...they are the single most ridiculous things I've ever seen. I was possibly the world's worst poet, and only wrote dark and depressing, angst-filled, "the world doesn't understand me!!! woe!!!" sort of drivel. But when all my classmates went to field parties to get baked and get wasted, my friends and I (the type of kids that wrote "dark poetry") went to coffeeshops and did poetry readings. Ha!

There are certainly good points on that list. If your child is drawing "mushrooms, pipes, pills, etc" on his/her notebook, you've got a problem. If s/he is carrying around Visine or mouthspray, you probably have a problem. If you are finding "small seeds" in your kids' pockets!!!! then, yes, your kid is either using, or has turned into quite the horticulturist.

But seriously? I'm somewhat terrified that someone might actually take this list secretly, and freak out---"Oh, my! My child listens to loud rock music, is quite secretive, doesn't want to hang out with us anymore and is anxious to go out with her friends, wears her hair too long, and is cynical of authority figures!! She must be using drugs!"

Teehee.:tongue: This little rant is nothing but a gentle reminder to take everything with a grain of salt. Woooeeee.


Here we go again!
Yes, we have to not only take it with a grain, but also listen to our gut, because those parental instincts are usually right on the money. No one knows our kids better than we do!


New Member
No kidding! Although my stepdad never quite understood why my friends dyed their hair funny colors. His sons (VERY much full-blown difficult children) went wrong at a young age, but oddly enough, they DIDN'T have "weird" friends. But he was convinced for most of high school that I was up to no good. Ha. I was being SO good....mainly because of those two difficult children of his. Never wanted him to have to go through that again......and I caught hell for it! Mom knew better. Life's a bit wonky sometimes. :)