Signs of Long-Term Use
Please refer to our “Detecting Drug Abuse” page for more detailed assessment tools.
Teen Transitions: Teens who begin to transition into a group that is drinking may demonstrate a sudden change in the number and type of friends. A consistent danger sign for adolescents has been found in the transition to an older peer group. Freshman that regularly hang out with juniors or seniors are significantly more likely to engage in underage drinking. Teens jumping between peer groups like this oftentimes become very critical of previous friendships. Someone who was a best friend just two months ago, can be seen as a “geek”, because they are not part of the drinking crowd.
Teens who quickly transition between otherwise stable interests or hobbies may be exhibiting signs of underage drinking. They often begin to have trouble satisfying weekend morning commitments. An increase in time spent away from home, unengaged in structured activities, is another danger sign. Unsupervised and unstructured time after school, or on the weekends, can produce a breeding ground for substance abuse.
Secretiveness: An increase in secretive behavior often accompanies substance abuse. Phone calls suddenly begin to occur in private and social activities increasingly take place outside of parental control. Inquiries regarding their behavior may be met with increasing levels of ambiguity and contempt.
Expressions: As discussed on the “Alcohol Paraphernalia” page. Pro-alcohol statements on clothing, book covers or as wall art, should be seen as clear evidence of underage drinking. Pro-alcohol statements have also been found to be highly predictive of substance abuse patterns.
Laundry: Laundry from Friday or Saturday night can be another sign. Odors of alcohol on shirts or pants is a dead giveaway. The same goes for vomit and urine. Unusual spills can also warrant further investigation, as can a teen who suddenly takes an interest in doing his own laundry. Missing clothes, or clothes found stashed in a hidden corner of a room, can be a sign that the teen is trying to hide evidence of a party-night.
Bed Wetting: Teenage bed wetting or unexplained vomiting may be due to drinking.
Slipping Grades: As teens transition into a peer group that is more prone to partying, they often begin to spend less time studying. This can manifest in a sudden influx of progress reports, or in a steadily dropping GPA.
Curfew: Kids who involve themselves in the party crowd often exert much more pressure for a later curfew. They are also much more likely to claim that there is a direct relationship between their curfew and their social status. As previous pages in this tutorial have discussed, those who return home after 10pm have been found to have a significantly higher exposure to underage drinking. The number of structured activities available after 10pm is very low, and the attention given by parental chaperones has also been found to wain after 10pm.
Health: Teens who engage in underage drinking often complain, or show signs, of pronounced lethargy on weekend mornings. They may engage in an increased use of over-the-counter medication, in an attempt to ward off hangover symptoms. With increasing use, they can develop nutritional disorders and exhibit withdrawal symptoms during periods of non-drinking.