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Youth Treatment Coordination

How can I tell if my adolescent has a problem with alcohol or other drugs?

Sometimes it is tough to tell. Most adolescents won't walk up to their parents and ask for help. In fact, they will probably do everything possible to deny or hide the problem. But, there are certain warning signs that may indicate that your child may be abusing alcohol or drugs. The information you want to gather will cover several areas.

  • School: Does the adolescent bring home lower grades and seem to have developed a negative attitude towards school? Does he/she skip classes? Has he/she been suspended or expelled?
  • Dishonesty: Has the adolescent concealed drug usage and either denied or minimized it when discovered? Has he/she been caught stealing from parents or shoplifting? Dose he/she lie about friends and activities? The adolescent may resort to cheating at school and forging school excuses.
  • Personality Changes: Immaturity and withdrawal from family relationships are common. Has he/she changed friends, started using foul language, or begun lying about activities? Seclusiveness and avoidance of adults are common. Taste in music may change. Irritability and fits of anger or rage with little or no provocation are common. There is loss of motivation, lowering of ambition, loss of drive toward goals and no quest for excellence. The adolescent becomes selfish.
  • Family Relationships: Does the adolescent avoid being seen with parents or siblings and avoid family outings? Are household responsibilities and chores neglected? He/she may be argumentative or passive, the two extremes. Does he/she accuse parents of "hassling" or not trusting him/her? Is he/she very manipulative, striving to create conflict between parents?
  • Sexual Behavior: Promiscuity is common, with consequences of sexually transmitted disease (including Aids) or pregnancy.
  • Law Breaking: Traffic violations, vandalism, shoplifting, breaking and entering may occur.
  • Physical Appearance: Personal grooming and hygiene may deteriorate, speech and actions may be slowed. Gait and posture along with clothing and hairstyle may change. The adolescent may exhibit a lack of vitality with need for excessive sleep at unusual times. Eating habits may be altered and weight loss may occur.