What behaviors can signal signs of substance abuse?

While some behavioral changes are a natural part of adolescence, consistent, extreme, or sudden shifts in mood, behavior, or academic performance, especially if combined with physical symptoms, might point toward substance misuse. It’s imperative for adults to remain observant, understanding, and proactive in addressing potential issues.


  • The Jed Foundation explores the nexus between substance use and mental health, emphasizing that substance misuse can often be an unhealthy coping mechanism for underlying emotional or psychological distress.

  • The Youth.gov website highlights the importance of being alert to behavioral changes that may be indicative of adolescent substance misuse. Symptoms can include fatigue, red or glassy eyes, lasting cough, and emotional signs like irritability, mood swings, or personality changes.

  • The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation pinpoints certain warning signs in teens that might indicate substance use. These can range from noticeable changes in friends, frequent isolation from the family, and decline in academic performance to more subtle clues like changes in mood, loss of interest in previous hobbies, or secretive behavior.

  • The American Psychiatric Association provides diagnostic criteria for Substance Use Disorder. Within this context, behaviors like excessive substance use, neglecting responsibilities, and increasing tolerance to the substance can be indicative of misuse or the onset of a disorder.

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