Signs & Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Many of the following behaviors can be a symptom of normal adolescence; however, take a few together, and your student/child may have a problem with substance abuse. Listen to yourself. Teacher and parental instincts can be a valuable guide.


check Lower grades – lower achievement
check Academic failure
check Falling behind in class work
check Lack of motivation, apathy

School Attendance

check Absenteeism
check Tardiness
check On absence list but in school
check Suspension
check Frequent schedule changes
check Frequent counselor visits

Extra Curricular Activities

check Loss of eligibility
check Decreasing involvement
check Dropping out

Physical Symptoms

check  Staggering or stumbling
check  Smelling of alcohol or marijuana
check  Vomiting
check  Glassy, bloodshot eyes, dark glasses
check  Lack of coordination
check  Slurred speech
check  Bad hygiene
check  Sleeping in class
check  Physical complaints
check  Physical injuries
check  Older social group
check  Time disoriented
check  Inappropriate responses or behavior
check  Depression
check  Defensiveness
check  Withdrawn, loner
check  Rapid weight loss or gain
check  Discolored fingers
check  Dilated pupils

Atypical Behavior

check Sitting in the parking lot
check Talking freely about drug use
check Avoids contact with others
check Erratic behavior, changes on a day to-day basis
check Change in peer group, friends

Disruptive Behavior

check Defiance of rules, constant discipline problem
check Cheating
check Irresponsibility, blaming, denying
check Verbal or physical abuse of others
check Throwing objects
check Obscene language or gestures
check Dramatic attention-getting
check Crying
check Constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time
check Extreme negativism
check Hyper-activity, nervousness

Criminal/Illegal Behavior

check Selling drugs; exchanges of money
check Possession of drugs or paraphernalia
check Involvement in thefts or assaults
check Carrying weapons
check Smoking

Home Problems

check Family problems
check Running away
check Job problems
check Medicine in home is missing
check Alcohol in home is missing
check Money of of parents or siblings is missing
check Belongings of parents, siblings, or youth’s own belongings are missing, though they may have been lent to friends.

Our parenting resource guide: Definitions of Terms Used | Parenting Resource Guide | Safe & Legal Teenage Parties | Ages and Stages of Adolescent Drug Use 
Sexual Assault and Bullying | Depression and Suicide | Return to Adolescent Resource Center Parenting Page