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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.

The Warning Signs of Teens Who Drink and Drug

Dear Dr. Steve:

My son is in ninth grade.  For the last 10 years I’ve known who his friends were. There have been some I liked, others I wished that he would stay away from, and others I didn’t have much of an opinion about one way or the other. Be that as it may, so far so good, things have gone pretty trouble free. However, he’s in a new school, he’s running with a new circle of friends, most of whom I don’t know. The few new friends that I do know have me concerned. Although, to this point in time, we’ve had a fairly open relationship, he’s become more and more distant. Where once his bedroom door was always kept open, now he keeps it closed and locked all the time. His answers to my questions about where he’s been, who he’s been with, and what he’s been up to are getting more and more vague. This kid used to be as regular as a Swiss clock but lately his behavior has struck me as being erratic. I too once was in ninth grade and I know that I didn’t want my parents poking into my business. On the other hand, I know the trouble that 15 year olds can get into. I’m especially concerned about drugs and alcohol. I love my kid, but he’s more of a follower than a leader. When it comes to “just saying no” my kid’s going to have more trouble with that than most. How can I tell if and when my son winds up on the slippery slope of peer pressure, making dangerous choices, and getting involved with drugs and alcohol?

Your letter articulates a common fear most parents of teenage children have. The fear is only exacerbated by the fact that there is no exact science to determine whether your son is getting involved with drugs and alcohol. The fact that there is no exact science to help you precisely evaluate whether or not your son may be getting involved with alcohol and other drugs is compounded by the fact that it is oftentimes difficult to discern the difference between signs of growing up and surefire signs that your son is involved with alcohol and other drugs.

Having said all of that, here are some signs to monitor. Let me remind you of a simple axiom—there is no substitute for an open relationship with your son, a relationship in which the lines of communication are open, supportive, and free of judgment.

Consider the following signs:

Mood Swings
Mood swing are not unusual for most teenagers. What is important to note is the extremeness of the mood swings. Is your child one minute happy and shortly thereafter withdrawn, depressed, or explosive with fits of anger or rage?

New Friends
Be aware of who your child spends time with. Is your child still with the same crowd that he typically spends time with or has he become involved with a new circle of friends? You’re familiar with the norms of behavior with your son’s old circle of friend. Are the norms the same or are they changing with his new circle of friends? Is your son reluctant to let you get to know to his friends?

Bad Performance in School
Monitor your son’s performance in school. Are his study habits the same or are they changing? Changing for the better or the worse? Is his behavior at school changing for the better or worse. Detentions? Skipping class? Skipping days?

Physical Health
If your son has started getting involved with alcohol and other drugs, it’s likely that his health will be impacted. Is his appetite the same? Is he developing digestive problems? Has he become suddenly accident prone? Has his sleeping habits changed?

Have you noticed any alcoholic beverages missing? Have you noticed any prescriptive medications tampered with? Have you stumbled on empty containers or unexplained bottles around your home or in your yard? Has your son developed a sudden interest in the collection of drug paraphernalia?

Have you noticed your child ridiculing anti-drug or anti-alcohol programs, materials, or literature? Has he been in trouble with the law for any reason? Has he developed a bad attitude toward any authority figures in his life? Has your son become dishonest? Has your son started to rebel against family rules? Has he adopted a nothing matters attitude? Has he developed a lack of involvement in former interests?

Fashion Choices
Has your son’s hairstyle changed? Is he wearing a different style of clothes that better enables him to fit into his peer group? Has your son had body piercing or tattoos done. Has his personal hygiene deteriorated?

Overt Signals
Has your child been arrested for using alcohol and other drugs? Has a school official or other parent(s) told you that your son is using alcohol and other drugs? Has your child been arrested for shoplifting? Have you noticed money missing from the usual places that you and/or your spouse keep money? Have you seen your son stagger? Have you noticed that there are times when his speech is slurred? Have you noticed that his pupils change size or that his eyes are bloodshot?

Don’t forget that these are signs that can be attributed to the use of alcohol and other drugs but these signs may just as likely be signs of being an adolescent. But if you have noticed a pattern of several of these signs, don’t ignore them. Start investigating what’s going on. If you feel like you’re in over your head, seek professional guidance to assist you in determining what’s going on with your son.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist
1.) Read Dr. Steve Frisch’s, Psy.D. series of Recovery books, From Insanity to Serenity. These books focus on chemical dependency, how to raise alcohol and other drugs free children, and Recovery for both the chemically dependent individual and their friends and family members.

2.) Read Fact Sheets about How to Raise an Alcohol and Drug-Free Child
3.) Read Fact Sheets about Information About Alcohol and Other Drugs
4.) Read the Fact Sheet, Referrals
5.) Read Fact Sheet, Warning Signs of Alcohol and Other Drugs Abuse
6.) Read Entering the World of Your Child: How to Nurture Your Child’s Spirit by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
7.) Read A Parent’s Guide for Protecting Their Children From Alcohol and Other Drugs by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
8.) Read But I’m Not The One With the Problem: How to Cope With a Loved One Who Abuses Alcohol and Other Drugs, by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.



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