Most parents believe they would know if their child was drinking, but the majority of teens say their parents wouldn't catch them. It is important to be aware of the risks and to continuously monitor your teen.
One sign that your child is experimenting with alcohol, or considering doing so, could be a casual mention that one or more of your teen's friends are drinking. Or your child may say that his friend’s parents let their teen drink. These could be "trial balloons" to test your reaction to underage drinking. Other early signs of experimentation might include joking about alcohol advertisements or other alcohol-related scenes in TV shows or movies.
- Visit our Getting Help section for coalitions and contacts near you.
Signs to Watch ForSome of the signs of alcohol abuse below may be considered normal adolescent behavior, but a combination of changes could indicate a serious problem.
Personality or Behavior Changes
- Abrupt changes in mood or attitude
- More irritable, argumentative or hostile
- Sudden decline in attendance or performance at school
- Rebelling against family rules, often breaking curfew
- Sudden resistance to discipline at school
- Uncharacteristic withdrawal from family or friends
- "Nothing matters" attitude; no interest in school, sports or activities that used to be important
- Physical, emotional or mental problems
- Stays awake all night and sleeps all day
- Memory lapses
- Poor concentration
- Needs more money or money missing
- Heightened secrecy about actions or possessions
- Switching friends
- Associating with a new group of friends whom your teen refuses to discuss
- Finding alcohol in your child's room or belongings
- Less appetite or continually hungry
- Loss or gain of weight
- Less interested in appearance
- Circles under eyes and pale skin, including face
- Bloodshot eyes; you find empty eye drop bottles
- Slurred or rapid speech
- Smell of alcohol on breath, or sudden, frequent use of breath mints
Use of Other Substances
- For signs & symptoms associated with use of other substances visit:
Time to Act, a tool from the Partnership for a Drug Free America.
Excerpts adapted from "Make a Difference" National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Keeping Your Kids Drug-Free" by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse VI:Teens" February 2001, conducted by QEV Analytics and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.