Do you suspect that your teen may be abusing alcohol or using drugs?

Having concerns about your teen’s use of alcohol or drugs is worrying enough on its own, but if you suspect your teen may be driving while being impaired it is imperative that you look out for the warning signs.

Mixing alcohol or drugs with driving is a deadly combination. If your teen drives after consuming alcohol or taking drugs they are not only putting their own life at risk but also the lives of any passengers as well as other road users.

Alcohol and drugs can dramatically affect driving ability. Impairment through either substance can cause drowsiness, reduce concentration, slow down reaction times, impair decision making, lead to over-confidence and can impair vision.

Here are some warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse:

Physical and health signs of drug abuse

  • Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal.
  • Frequent nosebleeds could be related to snorted drugs (meth or cocaine).
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Seizures without a history of epilepsy.
  • Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance.
  • Impaired coordination, injuries/accidents/bruises that they won’t or can’t tell you about – they don’t know how they got hurt.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination.

Behavioral signs of alcohol or drug abuse

  • Skipping class, declining grades, getting in trouble at school.
  • Drop in attendance and performance at work – loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise – decreased motivation.
  • Complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.
  • Missing money, valuables, prescription or prescription drugs, borrowing and stealing money.
  • Acting isolated, silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Clashes with family values and beliefs.
  • Preoccupation with alcohol and drug-related lifestyle in music, clothing and posters.
  • Demanding more privacy, locking doors and avoiding eye contact.
  • Sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities).
  • Using incense, perfume, air freshener to hide smell of smoke or drugs.
  • Using eyedrops to mask bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils.

Psychological warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse

  • Unexplained, confusing change in personality and/or attitude.
  • Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation.
  • Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appears lethargic or ‘spaced out’.
  • Appears fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent reason.

The warning signs on this page has been reproduced by kind permission of The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Please visit the NCADD website for further information, including advice for young people and their families.