Signs & Red Flags

The following signs may indicate a problem with alcohol or other drugs, some also are natural changes or “growing pains” for kids as they grow and mature.

However, experts believe that a drinking problem is more likely if you notice several of these changes at the same time or if they occur suddenly, and if some of them are extreme in nature.

If you notice some of the following changes with your child, it's a time to start a conversation.

  • Alcohol presence: finding it in your child’s room or backpack or smelling alcohol on his or her breath.
  • Bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • Changes or slurred speech
  • Memory lapses
  • Poor concentration or inability to focus as they once did
  • Sleeping in extra late
  • Feeling ill after spending time with friends
  • Feelings of stress or added stress
  • Mood changes: flare-ups of temper, irritability, and defensiveness
  • Rebellion against family rules
  • Lack of energy or lack of involvement in former interests
  • Sloppy appearance-change in commitment to getting ready /li>
Social Life
  • Persistent or intense about going out with friends
  • Friend changes: switching friends or hanging out with new friends and reluctance to letting you meet them
  • Not checking in with you as they once did
  • Breaking curfew
  • Frequently attending parties or group hangouts
  • Discussing alcohol or drug use on social media
School Life
  • Grades dropping
  • Lack of interest in sports or extracurricular activities they were once involved in
  • Poor attendance
  • Recent disciplinary action
Other “Red Flags”

Household items missing such as:

  • Money
  • Alcohol
  • Prescription drugs
Personal Items
  • Eye drops
  • Breath mints & mint tins or other small containers
  • Interest in apparel that promotes alcohol or drug use
  • Red cups being used as décor or to store items in their rooms

Download the PDF

Do you suspect that your child is using alcohol? Are you worried or not sure what to look for? Learn about red flags and how to handle them.

Parent Toolkit

Useful tips and tools to support your conversation regarding alcohol and your children



Find Help: 1-877-8-HOPENY

Call 1-877-846-7369 or text HOPENY, the New York State HopeLine, offering hope 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for alcoholism, drug abuse, and problem gambling. All calls/texts are toll-free, anonymous, and confidential.