Early Warning Signs of Teen Substance Use

July 31, 2023 3:42 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Early Warning Signs of Teen Substance Use

Teen substance use is a serious concern that affects many families worldwide. It is important for parents and guardians to be aware of the early warning signs that may indicate their teenager is experimenting with or addicted to drugs or alcohol. Identifying these signs early on can help prevent further escalation and potentially save a young person’s life. In this blog post, we will discuss some common early warning signs of teen substance use.

1. Behavioral Changes

One of the first signs that may indicate teen substance use is a sudden change in behavior. Teens may become more secretive, withdrawn, or exhibit sudden mood swings. They may also isolate themselves from family and friends, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, or experience a decline in school performance. These behavioral changes should serve as red flags for parents or guardians.

2. Physical Appearance

Another important aspect to consider is any significant changes in the teen’s physical appearance. Drug or alcohol use can cause physical effects such as bloodshot eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, unusual odor on breath or clothing, unexplained weight loss or gain, or poor personal hygiene. These physical changes can be indications of substance use.

3. Changes in Friendships

Teenagers often value their peers’ opinions more than anything else. Therefore, changes in their social circle can be an important sign to observe. If a teen abruptly stops spending time with long-time friends or starts hanging out with a new group, it may be worth investigating further. Peer pressure is a common factor that can lead to substance experimentation or abuse.

4. Sudden Financial Issues

Substance use often comes with a financial cost. Teens who are struggling with drugs or alcohol may rapidly spend or ask for money without a clear explanation of where it is going. If a teenager frequently asks for money or if valuables start going missing in the house, it is important to intervene and address this issue.

5. Academic Problems

One of the first areas to be affected by substance use is often academic performance. Teens who previously excelled in school may suddenly start receiving lower grades, missing assignments, or even skipping classes altogether. This decline in academic performance can be indicative of substance use and should not be overlooked or ignored.

6. Increased Secrecy

Teenagers experimenting with drugs or alcohol may go to great lengths to keep their activities a secret. They may become more secretive about their whereabouts, lock their bedroom doors, or even refuse to allow their parents or guardians access to their personal belongings. This increased secrecy can be a strong indication of substance use.

7. Physical and Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone becomes physically addicted to a substance, they may experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit or cut back. These symptoms can vary depending on the substance but may include tremors, sweating, nausea, anxiety, or irritability. Teens who exhibit these physical or emotional withdrawal symptoms should be carefully observed and receive appropriate help and support.


Recognizing the early warning signs of teen substance use is crucial in addressing the issue promptly and effectively. By keeping a close eye on their behavior, physical appearance, friends, finances, academic performance, secrecy levels, and signs of physical or emotional withdrawal, parents and guardians have a better chance of intervening early. It is important to approach these situations with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to seek professional help if needed. Together, we can work towards supporting and guiding our teenagers towards a healthier and drug-free future.

Got Questions? Let Us Help

Apple Valley Counseling Services, LLC is a locally owned rehabilitation center that offers Yakima residents and those in surrounding areas safe, personal, and affordable counseling for those dealing with substance abuse and domestic violence. At Apple Valley Counseling Service, LLC, we provide men, women, and teenagers of all ages the resources they need to overcome and move past drug and alcohol dependency and domestic violence. We are a family counselor, aftercare counselor, DOT substance abuse counselor, and rehab counselor. Please feel free to give us a call, as our line is available 24 hours a day. Or stop by our facility! We look forward to helping you!

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