Being a teenager is a unique and exciting stage in life, but one that comes with an abundance of changes; bodies are developing, hormones are fluctuating, and navigating the social realm of middle and high school is more challenging.

While it’s completely normal for your teenager to go through changes during these years, certain changes may signal your teenager has started using substances, like drugs or alcohol. For this reason, it’s important that you keep a close eye on your child to ensure they are staying safe and making healthy choices.

We’ve put together this blog to help you learn the signs of drug and alcohol use.

Signs Your Teenager is on Drugs

While a drug screening is the only accurate way to determine if a family member is dealing with substance abuse, these signs can indicate it’s time to have a conversation with your child.

Changes in Mood & Mental Health

  • Losing interest in their favorite activities & hobbies
  • Irritable
  • Anxious
  • Tired
  • Unable to focus
  • Fidgeting

Changes in Behavior

  • Breaking the rules frequently
  • Taking uncharacteristic risks
  • Locking their bedroom door
  • Shoplifting
  • Falling behind at school
  • Using eye drops frequently

Physical Signs

  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Track marks on arms or legs
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Changes in appetite
  • Dilated pupils


  • Clothes that smell of smoke
  • Soot under fingernails
  • Poor hygiene
  • Wearing long sleeves even in warm weather

Social Signs

  • Changing friend groups
  • Making secretive phone calls
  • Skipping school or work
  • Spending less time with friends and family

How to Tell if Your Kid is on Drugs – Spot Signs Early On

The above red flags could be a sign that your teenager is abusing medications or involved with drug or alcohol use. However, it’s important to note that addiction is a progressive disease, so the warning signs can be tricky to spot in the early stages. Unfortunately, these unhealthy habits can quickly spiral into substance dependence if they’re not addressed early on.

At the end of the day, you know your child best, so if your gut is telling you that something is off, talk to your child and seek substance abuse treatment if necessary.

Have a Conversation

When your teen comes home from seeing friends, take a moment to have a direct, face-to-face conversation with them. If they have been drinking or smoking, it may be obvious by the smell on their clothes or on their breath.

Make Eye Contact

If your child has been smoking marijuana, their eyes will often appear heavy-lidded, red, and bloodshot. Alternatively, if they’ve been drinking, their pupils may be dilated and they may avoid prolonged eye contact.

Notice Their Behavior

Watch their behavior after returning home from time spent with friends. If they’re acting spacey, have trouble concentrating, can’t speak coherently, or are uncoordinated, they may be using drugs or alcohol.

Search For Evidence

If you believe your child is using drugs or alcohol, it’s important to stop this behavior at the source. Take a look around their room and look for any evidence of drug paraphernalia like vape pens, rolling papers, liquor bottles, or bottles of prescription drugs.

Prepare For the Conversation

It can be scary to learn that your teen is using drugs, but having an open and honest conversation about your concerns is the first step in helping them adopt safer and healthier habits.

When you speak to your child about their drug use, try to stay calm. Understand that they may initially react with anger or denial. Try to emphasize why you’re worried about their behavior rather than yelling or shaming them.

End the conversation by setting boundaries for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior and what consequences they’ll face if they don’t respect these boundaries. Keep in mind that if your child is already experiencing substance dependence, they may have trouble following through with these rules. In these cases, it’s important to get your child professional help to treat their chemical dependence.

Speak to a Substance Abuse Specialist

If your teen is dependent on drugs or alcohol, you may be feeling unsure where to turn. The team at Options Family & Behavior Services is here to help. Our trained counselors and psychotherapists provide tailored support for children and teens going through problems related to substance abuse.

We provide a range of services to fit your teenager’s needs, including a day treatment program. We’re the most trusted choice for adolescent chemical dependency treatment in Minnesota.

Reach out to our intake team to learn more about our addiction treatment center.


Contact Us



151 West Burnsville Parkway
Burnsville, MN 55337


2675 Long Lake Road, Suite 125
Roseville, MN 55113