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  • Lisa Friedman, LCSW INC

Parenting Tools: Kids and Drug/Alcohol Use

It seems, that in today’s increasingly complex world, children appear to be “growing up” at an accelerated pace. At younger and younger ages, children and teens feel compelled to behave in ways they believe to be more “adult like”. Unfortunately, experimentation with drugs and alcohol is one of the more common symptoms of “pre-mature” adult behavior.


As with adults, but even more so with the still developing minds and bodies of children and teens, drug and alcohol use can cause significant harm. It important for parents, teachers, and counselors to have some understanding of potential warning signs and what to do should they suspect their child is engaging in drug/alcohol related activity.


Signs of Drug Use in Children and Teens:

Change of friends.

Be especially wary if your child begins to interact with older friends.

Known or suspected use of drugs by friends of your child.

Extreme changes in mood, moodiness, or increased irritability

Carelessness about personal appearance and grooming

Isolating from family members

Increased defensiveness

Decreased interest in favorite activities

Altered sleep or eating patterns

Diminished performance at school and truancy

Increased disciplinary problems

Troubles with the law (DUI’s, shoplifting, disorderly conduct)

Red or glossy eyes; constant running nose

Family history of alcohol and/or drug problems

Missing money, alcohol, or prescription drugs

Finding suspected drug paraphernalia ( i.e. pipes, butane lighters, rolling papers)


Awareness and maintaining an active and caring interest in your child’s well being is the most important aspect of minimizing child/teen drug problems. If you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol, it is most important that you address the issue as soon as possible.


Here are some ways to address this issue w/ a child:


Approach your child from a place of concern rather than anger

Inquire and ask questions but avoid the temptation to directly accuse

Be specific as to what you see, hear and smell that leads you to believe there may be a problem

Expect your child to be defensive; stay as cool and calm as you can

Set limits and use appropriate consequences for unhealthy or unacceptable behaviors

Continue to get education on substance abuse and parenting tips


If troubling behaviors and warning signs persist or worsen, seek professional help.


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