Signs of Teen Alcohol and Drug Use

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According to the 2016 Arizona Youth Survey, more than half of Tempe 12th graders have tried alcohol and nearly 40 percent have tried marijuana.

Do you know the signs of drug and alcohol use among teens?

What to watch for:

  • Mood changes, including anger, irritability or defensiveness
  • Problems at school, such as poor attendance, bad grades or behavioral problems
  • Rebelling against family rules
  • Changing groups of friends
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Caring less about appearance
  • Finding alcohol or drug paraphernalia in your teen’s room or backpack
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things

What should you do if you suspect your child has been using drugs or alcohol?

Start with a conversation. For a good resource on how to discuss your child’s drug or alcohol use, visit

While you should talk to your teen as soon as possible about his or her drug or alcohol use, there are three times when you should wait.

  1. If your child is drunk or high. Your conversation won’t be productive or remembered. Wait until your child is sober to talk to him or her.
  2. If you’re angry. Yelling won’t help in this situation. Wait to talk to your child until you are feeling more calm and level-headed.
  3. If you’re not prepared. This is a difficult conversation to have with your child. Before you begin, talk with someone you trust and seek out resources to help you know what to say.

If you need it, enlist help. Outside help doesn’t always mean your child needs rehab. A school counselor, professional therapist, addiction counselor, pediatrician, sports coach or other caring adult can all help your child see the harmful effects of underage drinking or drug use.

Finally, consider a treatment program, if your child’s drug or alcohol use is causing serious and recurring problems. Your pediatrician or family doctor should be able to recommend good options for inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.

Please remember, there is no reason for you to be ashamed of your child’s drug or alcohol use. Don’t let embarrassment keep you from getting your teen the help he or she needs.

As a parent, you are responsible for keeping your child healthy and safe.

For helpful resources for substance abuse prevention and treatment in Tempe, visit the parents page on If you have additional questions, we’re happy to help. Email or call 480-858-2316.


Craig L. Keller
Tempe Coalition Board Chair

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