Frequently Asked Questions - Part 2

Young man in front of grafitti wall

Learn how to recognize some of the warning signs, both for yourself and your friends and loved ones. Often a person who is addicted does not show any discernable signs until the condition is quite developed.

It’s also important for parents to have knowledge and a plan to help their children resist peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs.

girl taking joint from friend

What are some signs of drug or alcohol use in young people?

Often it is difficult to spot signs of drug use in young people since some of the signs and symptoms are common in perfectly normal adolescents. While there is no single warning sign for drug or alcohol use, some indicators of a potential problem include:

  • Drop in school attendance or academic performance
  • Lack of interest in personal appearance
  • Physical changes (e.g., persistent runny nose, red eyes, coughing, wheezing, bruises, needle marks)
  • Uncharacteristic withdrawal from family, friends or interests
  • Isolation, depression, fatigue
  • Hostility and lack of cooperativeness
  • Increase in borrowing money
  • Unaccounted-for cash, especially in small denominations
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and/or sports that used to be important
  • Evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia (e.g., rolling papers, eye drops, butane lighters, pipes)
  • Use of incense or room deodorant
  • Evidence of inhaling products (such as hairspray, nail polish and whiteout) and chemicals used to get high (e.g., rags soaked in chemicals or gasoline smell of chemicals on the person, more frequent need to buy household products)
  • Smell of alcohol on the breath or sudden, frequent use of breath mints
  • Watered-down alcohol in liquor bottles in the liquor cabinet
  • Sudden use of strong perfume or cologne
  • Heightened secrecy about actions or possessions

Most warning signs can be divided into several general areas:

  1. Physical and Emotional: fatigue, slurred speech, red or glazed eyes, a persistent cough or runny nose not from a cold, increased irritability, inability to cope with problems and daily activities, personality change, sudden mood swings, sustained depressive attitudes, thoughts of suicide.
  2. School, Social and Family: drop in academic performance, truancy, negative attitude toward authority, new friends who are disinterested in standard family and social values, aggressive or hostile behavior, loss of interest in hobbies, changes to less conventional dress style.

From: National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, “Keeping Your Kids Drug-Free”

Teen Challenge International, “Drug Proofing Your Child: What Parents, Grandparents, Mentors and other Care-givers Can Do to Keep Kids Off Drugs”

Small child leaning on dad

Rule-making guidelines for parents

Children look to parents for information about life decisions and choices, such as how to succeed in school and why they shouldn’t use drugs. They look to other kids for information about popular culture, such as fashion fads or what’s cool.

“Most kids don’t want to disappoint their families,” according to Amelie Ramirez, a doctor of public health and drug-prevention specialist. “Parents who send a clear message of ‘no drug use’ are setting expectations for their kids, and this will help their kids stay away from drugs.”

It is important to set rules and guidelines with your children so that they know what you expect of them.

  1. Set clear rules and discuss the consequences of breaking them in advance. Telling your children that drug or alcohol use is forbidden avoids ambiguous boundaries that are easily broken and justified.
  2. Enforce your rules consistently and calmly impose reasonable and mild punishment for every infraction and don’t neglect to praise positive behavior.
  3. Set a curfew and enforce it strictly while being prepared to negotiate special occasions.
  4. Give kids a phone card or cell phone and have them call when away from home.
  5. Make it easy for your kids to leave a party where drug abuse, alcohol or sexual activity is occurring. Let them know you would be happy to pick them up at their request.
  6. Call parents whose home is used for a party and don’t be afraid to drop by on party night to say hello.
  7. Pay attention to your intuition and intervene if you feel anything is wrong.

From: Drug-Proofing Your Child: What Parents, Grandparents, Mentors And Other Care-Givers Can Do To Keep Kids Off Drugs, Published By Teen Challenge Of Southern California.


Is it possible to “drug-proof“ my children?

Drug-proofing our children empowers them to actively resist the pressure to use drugs or alcohol and helps them to take steps to stop the abuse if it has begun.

Shared values

Be a living example of what you want your kids to be. Then clarify family rules and discuss the consequences of breaking them. Young people are less inclined to use tobacco, alcohol or drugs when parents set clear rules prohibiting their use.

Probably the greatest value that can be shared with kids is a personal vibrant faith. Even though young people who attend church are not immune from trouble, research shows that those who indicate a personal faith in God, participate in church and other extracurricular activities, are less likely to indulge themselves in drugs or alcohol.


Spending time with your kids and building their self-confidence helps insulate them from risky behaviors. Children who feel good about themselves are less likely to deviate from what they know is right.

Love & Communication

Learn to actively listen to your kids. If what you are doing cannot be interrupted, tell them and prioritize a time to talk immediately after finishing—then do it! Few things should get in the way of listening to our kids when they want our attention.

Capture every opportunity to talk to your kids about drugs—you’ll be alerting them to potential dangers in their environment. Clear communication with your children helps them deal with peer pressure. For example, the role-playing of specific situations is one way to help your child know just what to say.

Most of all, tell your children you love them as often as you can, because children who know they are loved are less likely to disappoint those who love them.

Know where your children are going and with whom. Get to know their friends and friend’s parents so you will be familiar with their activities. Make your own home available to your children’s friends.

From: Drug-Proofing Your Child: What Parents, Grandparents, Mentors And Other Care-Givers Can Do To Keep Kids Off Drugs, Published By Teen Challenge Of Southern California.

About Alcohol & Drug Recovery Fund

Alcohol & Drug Recovery Fund provides healing help to those afftected by alcoholism and drug addiction.

Learn more »
Get in touch

Phone: 626-991-0009
Email: email (at) alcoholanddrugrecovery (dot) org