Signs and Symptoms of Drug or Alcohol Use

During the preteen and teen years, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether your child is dealing with a mental or behavioral health challenge such as substance use, depression, or bullying, or if the changes in behavior you’re seeing are simply a matter of your child going through a natural transition.  However, it’s important to begin a conversation to find out what is going on in order to know how to best help your child. It’s especially important to take note if several symptoms are occurring in combination, or are occurring over a prolonged period of time.  Even if they’re not dealing with a serious issue, taking the time to talk with them can still be incredibly beneficial.

Some of the most common signs and symptom of drug or alcohol use by youth can include:


  • A drop in grades
  • Decline in athletic performance
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Mood swings
  • Dishonesty
  • Change in peer groups
  • Drawing or writing drug-related symbols and/or slang
  • Parental defiance
  • Slurred speech
  • Extremely dilated or constricted pupils
  • Red, watery, or glassy eyes
  • Frequent use of eye drops to hide red eyes
  • Violating curfew, coming home late, unable to explain whereabouts
  • Rejection of parental values
  • Finding drug paraphernalia or concealment devices in your child’s backpack, purse, room, or vehicle
  • Disappearance of your money or possessions
  • Defiance about drug use
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies and activities
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Finding multiple empty boxes of over the counter medication such as cough medicine
  • Smell of alcohol on the breath or coming from the skin
  • Prescription drugs missing from your medicine cabinet or prescription bottles


Substances that cause constricted pupils: 

Opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, heroin, methadone, codeine


Substances that cause dilated pupils: 

Amphetamines, methamphetamines, cocaine, crack cocaine, hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin mushrooms), marijuana, MDMA/Molly/Ecstasy


Substances that cause red eyes:

Marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Valium), alcohol, prescription sedatives



Back to notMYkid Substance Use Prevention Strategies


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