Topic Overview

Your child's behaviour at home will most likely be affected if he or she is drinking alcohol or taking other drugs. The following are some questions to ask yourself if you suspect substance use in your teen:

  • Has your child recently developed a negative attitude and become less motivated toward activities such as sports or hobbies? Has he or she talked about suicide or running away?
  • Does your child argue with you much more than usual? Is he or she more aggressive, more depressed, or prone to sudden mood changes?
  • Have you noticed a change in the way your child dresses? Is he or she poorly groomed?
  • Does your child avoid adults? Has he or she had encounters with the police?
  • Have you caught your child lying or stealing? Does he or she seem to have extra money that you cannot account for?
  • Does your child participate in fewer family activities?
  • Does your child seem to be more sensitive about his or her privacy?
  • Is your child away from home more than usual? Does your teen seem to use home as a stop-off place?
  • When you ask your child where he or she has been, do you get a vague answer?

Many of the behaviours listed above are normal for youth. So it is helpful to look for changes in patterns of behaviour along with any direct evidence of substance use. For example, a change in pattern might be that your child's loss of interest in school and activities seems continuous instead of just on Monday mornings. And you might notice that your child smells of alcohol or is now using eyedrops often.

If your child has tried drugs or alcohol only a few times, then talking openly with him or her about this may be all that you need to do. But if your teen has a substance use problem, then he or she needs to be seen by a doctor, a counsellor, or both.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017