There are a variety of signs that may indicate alcohol use by your teen. Changes in behavior, appearance, personal habits, health status, and changes at school or work are all indicators that your child is drinking.

Behavioral Cues:

  • Loud, obnoxious behavior
  • Laughing at nothing
  • Withdrawn, depressed, uncommunicative
  • Constant excuses
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased lying

Changes in relationships: Although the teenage years are a transitional period, if your child starts to hang out with a new crowd while completely losing touch with close friends, they may be using. Blatant disrespect toward family members is also a sign that drugs or alcohol may be in the picture.

Loss of inhibitions: If your child becomes more outspoken, begins to tell jokes or make comments that are out of character, or increases risk-taking behavior, this may indicate drug and alcohol use.

Mood changes or emotional instability: Moodiness is common though out the teenage years. However, it is important to note if your teens mood changes and emotional state have changed from what is typical of your child.

Exhausted or lethargic: It is common for teens to be tired depending on their sleep schedule. However, drug and alcohol use may cause a dramatic increase in their energy level as the substances may disrupt normal sleeping patterns and cycles.  Inability to sleep followed by long periods of catching up may also be a sign of drug or alcohol use.

Signs of anger (i.e. hostile, mean, or uncooperative)

Changes in speech (i.e. slurred speech, rapid speech)

Changes in Appearance:

  • changes in hygiene
  • careless appearance
  • red flushed cheeks or face
  • red eyes
  • strange odors

Changes in Personal Habits:

  • increased use of gum or mints
  • increased use of eye drops
  • breaking curfew
  • changes is financials
  • unexplained dents in car or car accidents
  • avoidance of eye contact
  • locked bedroom doors
  • secretive with phone
  • increase in appetite
  • excessive use of perfume or cologne

Changes in Health Status:

  • vomiting
  • excessive thirst
  • changes in weight
  • unexplained injuries
  • depression
  • shakiness
  • headaches

Changes at School or Work: 

  • truancy
  • decreased interest in schoolwork
  • dropping grades
  • loss of interest in sports, usual activities
  • failure to fulfill responsibilities
  • concern from teacher, boss, friends, or peer’s parents

Source: The Partnership for a Drug Free America. (2012). Time to Act! Retrieved from