35 Signs & Symptoms of Teen Substance Abuse

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  • Unexplained extreme mood swings
  • Tired with noticeable change in sleep patterns
  • Dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes
  • Loss of appetite, yet periods of binge eating
  • Changes in dress or appearance
  • Threatens/attempts to commit suicide
  • Uncharacteristic nosebleeds or unexplained burns


  • Ignores curfews and other house rules
  • Withdraws from family activities
  • Isolates from family members and is rarely home
  • Collects alcohol and other drug paraphernalia
  • Tells lies or gives unrealistic explanations to parents
  • Uses air fresheners or breath mints to cover scents


  • Misses excessive time from school
  • Fails to turn in assignments
  • Sleeps in class
  • Exhibits persistent behavioral problems
  • Reduced grades
  • Increased tardiness
  • Reduced interest in extracurricular activities


  • Changes in friends, including secret calls and visits
  • Avoids contact with concerned persons
  • Loses interest in hobbies/activities
  • Becomes secretive and defensive regarding actions
  • Reluctant to introduce new friends


  • Steals money or objects from family and friends
  • Develops unexplained shortages of money
  • Loss of possessions
  • Increased amounts of alcohol missing in home
  • Expresses increasing concern over needing money
  • No tangible evidence of how money is spent such as clothes, music or other items
  • Excess money beyond explanation may mean teen is dealing drugs


  • Runs away from home
  • Increased involvement with police, such as having parties/social functions broken up by the police
  • Arrested for alcohol or other drug related charges

If you are concerned about a change in a young person close to you, it is important to know that these signs and symptoms may not occur at the same time, in any certain order or with any great frequency for you to take action. The best way for a parent or loved one to be an ally for the adolescent is to stay informed.

Call 815.391.1000 or 888.928.5278

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  • Accredited by The Joint Commission
  • Licensed and partially funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse