Teenage boy steals a beer while his parents enjoy a party

Risks & Warning Signs of Drug Use

Before you start a conversation with youth, it is important to understand the risks and warning signs of drug use. Learning the risks can help you speak confidently about why drug use is dangerous, and knowing the warning signs can help you determine if your youth is already using.


Physical Health
Drug use and tobacco use can have lasting effects on a young person’s health, and in some cases can lead to death. Read up on the risks associated with the most popular drugs used by youth.

Mental Health
In the teenage years, the brain is still developing. Drug use impacts decision-making skills and can lead to addiction in the long term.

Legal Problems
The legal bills and consequences associated with a young person getting caught using, selling, or buying drugs can be very demanding on your wallet and your well-being.

Future Success
Teenage drug use may result in poor performance in school. Talk to your youth about how the decisions he or she makes now can affect his or her future success.

Warning Signs

Look for Behavior Changes
Has your youth started doing things out of his or her character, like skipping school, breaking rules, or turning in bad grades? While some bad behavior may just be “growing pains,” drug use often results in dramatic changes in behavior.

Know Where Your Youth Is
Pay attention to your youth’s activities, friends, and hangout spots—even their Metro routes. Unmonitored areas and abandoned buildings are hot spots for drug activity. Unsupervised peers and older friends may have access to drugs and alcohol.

Look for Signs of Stress
Some youth say they misuse or abuse prescription drugs because of stress related to family life, relationships, school, or the pressure to be seen as “cool.”

Look for Dramatic Changes in Performance in School
A straight-A student dropping to Ds is a major indicator that something is going on. That something could be drug use. Talk to your kids about their performance in school and try to figure out what’s causing it.

Alert IconNeed professional advice? Call your local prevention center. Visit our Resources section to find one.