Keeping our Teens Drug and Alcohol Free

When to Be Concerned

Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between normal teen behavior and behavior that may indicate potential problems with alcohol or drugs. As a parent, you know best what is normal for your child. Trust your own sixth sense, and look for a series of changes, not an isolated single behavior. For example, if your child begins to fail at school, withdraw from the family or display drastic mood swings, these changes could lead to other more serious problems requiring professional help.


  • Increased tardiness or absences from school
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Declining grades
  • Change in attention span or ability to concentrate
  • Social withdrawal or increased isolation from others
  • Change in personal appearance
  • Change in type of friends
  • Sudden increase or decrease in weight
  • Change in language used
  • Shift in personal values or beliefs
  • Exhibiting impulsive or bizarre behavior
  • Increase in detentions or suspensions from school
  • Stealing or vandalism
  • Use of alcohol and/or drugs

For a more extensive list of warning signs visit:

When to Intervene

by Julie & Mark Filler and the Jordan Michael Filler Foundation

If you believe your child is using drugs, best outcomes are achieved when calm prevails. Keep lines of communication open. Practice compassion and patience. Maintain trust and support. Remember that substance misuse can be stopped, help is available, and the disease of addiction can be treated.

Substance misuse shows itself across a range of behaviors and consequences; each situation is unique. If your child is using drugs, talk to them right away to determine the extent of the use, the drugs being used, the length of time your child has been using, and what negative effects and consequences they are experiencing. An evaluation from a qualified mental health professional or physician specializing in adolescent substance use should always be considered.

Realizing that your teen or young adult child needs help for their substance misuse can be scary and overwhelming. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there is help and your family can heal.


  • Realize that neither you nor your child is to blame.
  • Approach the situation with understanding, not anger.
  • Talk to your child. Try to identify what triggered the substance use and how long the situation has existed.
  • Determine if there is an underlying physical or mental health issue.
  • Try to identify which substance(s) are being used.
  • Determine available treatment/help options based on the specific substance(s) being used. Reach out to trusted physicians, local hospitals, counselors, treatment centers, and private prevention foundations to learn which services are offered in your area
  • Create a plan of action with your child.
  • Involve the entire family in the healing process. Outcomes are more positive when families participate.

For a more extensive list of warning signs visit: