Substance Use Disorder: What to Look For

A young person who is frequently intoxicated, uses substances before or during school, sells drugs, or conceals alcohol or drugs in his room is displaying signs of a substance use disorder. But since many teenagers effectively hide their drug or alcohol consumption from their parents, other behaviors that result from substance abuse may be noticed first. These may include skipping school frequently, performing poorly in school, changing friends, and dropping activities or former interests. Other signs include dangerous behavior like getting in fights or driving while impaired. One does not need to be addicted to have a substance problem.

Parents of children with psychiatric disorders should know that their kids are particularly vulnerable to substance problems. Even normal teenage experimentation can become risky for someone with an anxiety or mood disorder. Use of alcohol or drugs, even when it’s limited, can worsen symptoms of panic attacks, trigger a manic or depressive episode, and induce psychosis. It is important to know that using substances will also interfere with the efficacy of prescribed medications.