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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Addiction behavior question



What kinds of changes in behavior should I look out for in my teenager?


I think you have picked up on the important aspect of knowing when you should be concerned that your adolescent may be involved in drug or alcohol use - and that is a change in behavior.

There is not a simple answer, as the time of adolescence involves a great deal of change, change from relying mostly on parents to increased reliance on their peer group. This is a time when adolescents are trying to figure out who they are and separating from their parents. While they are separating from parents they still need and value their parents' guidance, even though at times it does not seem that way. So it is important to keep open communication.  

Adolescence is a time when experimentation with alcohol and drugs may be most active.  It is important to reinforce your family values about use of these substances, not in a dictatorial manner but with support and concern, so that if experimentation occurs they will eventually return to the values held by the family.

Signs to look for are:

Many of these activities are a normal part of testing new behaviors, but when you see two or three of these behaviors coming together at the same time - poor school performance, changes in friends who have different values, and secretiveness with family, then this may be a cause for concern.

When you have concerns, talking with your teen and expressing your concern may be the first step.  Then seeking the advise from school counselors, a pediatrician or other trusted health professional, or other community resources may be a source of support. If the problem continues to escalate, seeking counseling services from your local mental health agency, social worker, counselor, or psychologist who works with teens may be in order.

For more information:

Go to the Addiction and Substance Abuse health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Janice Dyehouse, PhD, RN
Adjunct Professor
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati