Battling Drug and Alcohol Abuse

By Focus on the Family
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Focus on the Family
Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse.

Stage One: Experimentation

  • Use is occasional, sporadic, often unplanned — weekends, summer nights, someone’s unsupervised party.
  • Use is precipitated by peer pressure, curiosity, thrill seeking, desire to look and feel grown-up.
  • Gateway drugs are usually used — cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, possibly inhalant abuse.
  • A drug high is easier to experience because tolerance has not been developed.

Parents may notice:

  • Tobacco or alcohol on the breath or intoxicated behavior.
  • Little change in normal behavior between episodes of drug use.

Stage Two: Regular Drug and/or Alcohol Use

  • Alcohol and other drugs are used not only on weekends but also on weekdays, not only with friends but when alone.
  • Quantities of alcohol and drugs increase as tolerance develops; hangovers become more common.
  • Blackouts may occur — periods of time in which drugs or alcohol prevent normal memories from forming “What happened last night?” becomes a frequent question.
  • More time and attention are focused on when the next experience will occur.
  • Fellow drinkers/drug users become preferred companions.

Parents may notice:

  • Son or daughter will be out of the house later at night, overnight, or all weekend.
  • School performance worsens-unexplained school absences.
  • Outside activities such as sports are dropped.
  • Decreased contact with friends who don’t use drugs.
  • Disappearance of money or other valuables.
  • Child withdraws from the family, is increasingly sullen and hostile.
  • User is caught in one or many lies.

Stage Three: In the Mire of Addiction

  • Alcohol and drugs become primary focus of attention.
  • Becoming high is a daily event.
  • There is a use of harder, more dangerous drugs.
  • More money is spent each week on drugs: theft or dealing may become part of drug-seeking behavior.
  • Adolescent displays increasing social isolation; no contact with non-drug-using friends; more drug use in isolation rather than socially.

Parents may notice the behaviors listed above, plus:

  • Escalation of conflicts at home.
  • Loss of nearly all control of the adolescent.
  • Possible discovery of a stash of drugs at home.
  • Arrest(s) for possession of and/or dealing drugs or for driving while intoxicated.

Stage Four: Drowning in Addiction

  • Constant state of intoxication; being high is routine, even at school or job (if there is any attendance at all.
  • Blackouts increase in frequency.
  • Physical appearance deteriorates — weight loss, infections, poor self-care. Injectable drugs are possibly used.
  • Involvement in casual sexual relationships (at times in exchange for drugs). User will likely be involved with theft, dealing, and other criminal activity.
  • Guilt, self-hatred, and thoughts of suicide increase.
  • Adolescent abandons any apparent interest in spiritual matters.

Parents are likely to be dealing with:

  • Complete loss of control of adolescent’s behavior, escalation of conflict, possibly to the point of violence.
  • Ongoing denial by user that drugs are a problem.
  • Increasing problems with the law and time spent with police, attorneys, hearings, court officials, etc.
  • Other siblings negatively affected because the family is preoccupied or overwhelmed by consequences of drug user’s behavior.

This column was adapted from Complete Book of Baby and Child Care, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 1999 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.