Positive teenage males and girls relaxing with mobile phones outdoor

Kaipātiki Parent Pack

What to look for if you think your child may be using Alcohol or Drugs

Abusing drugs and underage drinking are real problems for public health as well as for the individuals these behaviors impact. Teenagers are easily able to access alcohol or drugs via associates at school or other contacts. Underage drinking or drug abuse can lead to unwanted pregnancies, car accidents, health problems, and in the worst cases, death. Get familiar with the facts and do what you can to prevent teenage substance abuse.


Here is a list of symptoms that MAY indicate alcohol or drug use. It is important to remember that adolescence is a time for changes, so look for a SERIES OF SYMPTOMS, not just an isolated or single behaviour. Most of these symptoms could in fact be classified as ‘normal’ teenage behaviour.


BehaviourNasty, moody, irritable, unreasonable, angry, lying, occasional memory loss, slurred or slow speech, lack of energy, apathy, poor coordination, loss of involvement or enthusiasm, overreaction to criticism, lack of pride in appearance
IllnessFrequently ill in the morning, miraculously well by evening, chronic coughing
Changes offriendsDrops old friends, has new friends you don’t know, makes private phone calls and has private meetings away from home more often
MoneyUnable to explain how money is spent or where money comes from, unable to explain new purchases or acquisitions
School problemsUnusual lateness, truancy, teachers notice change of behaviour, performance
Other changesNo interaction with family, hides in room, sleeping habits change, hangs out at parks, malls, arcades, etc, withdrawal from sports or hobbies
Things appear or disappearPossessions missing, fan in bedroom, drug paraphernalia (tinfoil, eye drops, burnt knives, cigarette papers), alcohol bottles or cans, nitrous oxide canisters
Eating habitsAvoids family meals, loss/gain of appetite, loss/gain of weight, late night “munchies”, a craving for sweets
Obvious useRed-eyed, glassy eyed, alcohol smell, incoherent


DON’T PANIC - or over-react if you suspect alcohol or drug use.  Try to establish the facts, talk to your son or daughter without moralising or preaching.  Show understanding or concern and look for positive ways of correcting the situation.

There is a list of people who can help you at the end of this page.

If you feel unable to speak calmly to your son/daughter, ask for support from an adult whom your son/daughter relates well to.

Helpful Websites




“When you deny a 14 year old a social event, expect a fight. They accuse you of meanness, mistrust and being the ONLY parent saying no and it tests your resolve. The way I see it, it’s their job to push the boundaries and our job to make sure there is something in place when they do. It’s about security not trust.”

Christine Rogan, Parent and Health Promotion Advisor.

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