Substance Use Warning Signs

What are some early signs of teen drug abuse and addiction?

Early warning signs can be hard to spot, and unhealthy patterns can develop into a full-blown substance use disorder if not addressed. While these symptoms and behaviors serve as warning signs for substance use they may also point toward other problems, such as depression. Contact your drug counseling team with questions or concerns regarding students who show signs of possible drug use.

Behavioral signs of drug use or substance abuse include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Ignoring or breaking curfew
  • Acting irresponsibly
  • Laughing for no reason
  • Frequently asking for money
  • Stealing
  • Locking bedroom doors
  • Making secretive calls
  • Isolating from others/damaging relationships with family or friends
  • Making excuses (or outright lying)
  • Withdrawing from classroom participation/slipping in grades
  • Resisting discipline or feedback
  • Missing school or work
  • Losing interest in hobbies or activities
  • Abandoning long-time friends

Physical indicators of possible substance use or abuse include:

  • Poor hygiene/change in appearance
  • Smell of smoke on breath or clothes
  • Glazed or bloodshot eyes
  • Frequent runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Paranoia, irritability, anxiety, fidgeting
  • Changes in mood or attitude
  • Difficulty staying on task/staying focused
  • Small track marks on arms or legs (wears long sleeves even in warm weather)
  • Pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Cold, sweaty palms or shaking hands
  • Sores on mouth
  • Headaches
  • Puffy, swollen face
  • Extremely tired or extremely hyperactive
  • Rapid weight gain or loss