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379 South Branch Road
Hillsborough, NJ 08844

Signs of Using

Physical Signs

• Change in sleeping patterns
• Bloodshot eyes
• Slurred or agitated speech
• Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
• Skin abrasions/bruises
• Neglected appearance/poor hygiene
• Sick more frequently
• Accidents or injuries

Behavioral Signs

• Hiding use; lying and covering up
• Sense that the person will “do anything” to use again regardless of consequences
• Loss of control or choice of use (drug-seeking behavior)
• Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
• Emotional instability
• Hyperactive, hyper-aggressive or depression
• Missing school or work
• Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work
• Complaints from teachers or co-workers
• Reports of intoxication at school or work
• Furtive or secretive behavior
• Avoiding eye contact
• Locked doors
• Going out every night
• Change in friends or peer group
• Change in clothing or appearance
• Unusual smells on clothing or breath
• Heavy use of perfumes, sprays or incense to hide smoke or chemical odors
• Hidden stashes of alcohol
• Alcohol missing from your supply
• Prescription medicine missing
• Money missing
• Valuables missing
• Disappearances for long periods of time
• Running away
• Secretive phone calls
• Unusual containers or wrappers

If you notice unexplained changes in physical appearance or behavior, it may be a sign of substance use – or it could be a sign of another problem. You will not know definitively until a professional does a screening. 

If you notice unexplained changes in physical appearance or behavior, it may be a sign of substance use – or it could be a sign of another problem. You will not know definitively until a professional does a screening.


Intervention is not always a formal process involving drug counselors and group confrontation. Substance abuse treatment can actually start right at the kitchen table with a conversation. Here are 10 steps you can take right now if your child is using drugs:

• Discuss and agree to a plan of action for your child’s substance abuse treatment with your spouse or his other parent or guardian.

• Pick a time to talk to your child when he or she is not high or drunk, or extremely upset or angry.

• Make it clear that you love your child, and that by bringing up substance abuse treatment you are showing your concern for his safety and well-being.

• Point out to your child that, as parents, it is your job to make sure he or she reaches adulthood as safely as possible.

• Spell out the warning signs of alcohol and drug use that you’ve observed in your child’s behavior. Don’t press the child to agree on this assessment of the problem.

• Actively listen to anything and everything your child has to say in response. The listening step is crucial, to establish empathy and to convey that you really see and hear your child. If he or she brings up related problems, they should be listened to with a promise of being addressed separately. Reiterate that what you are addressing at the moment is substance abuse, which is serious and can be at the core of other problems.

• Then, to empower your child and get him to think about his substance use in a new way, ask him or her questions about what they want out of life and how things are going with school, his friends, his parents, siblings, job, activities, etc.

• Prompt your child to consider the link between substance use and where her life is not matching up to her dreams and wishes.

• Ask the child — in light of what he or she is concluding in this conversation about the substance abuse effect on his or her life — to reassess the problem. Set a goal for getting well. Together, plan out some concrete steps to find information about addiction, recovery and resources, and identify any necessary professional substance abuse treatment.

• Understand that the conversation you just had is actually a successful “intervention,” a first concrete step toward interrupting the progression of the problem and getting well. It is a good idea to reiterate again your love and caring concern for your child. Acknowledge yourselves, knowing that you need and deserve strong encouragement and support, and have the power to solve this problem together.

Know the Law

Parents who host teenage drinking parties or allow underage adults to drink in their home need to know the consequences of the law.

Fact#1 – It is illegal in NJ to serve alcohol to anyone who is under the legal drinking age of 21 (NJSA 2C:33-17a).

Fact #2 – It is illegal in NJ to make your home or property available for the purpose of allowing anyone who is under the legal drinking age of 21 a place to consume alcohol (NJSA 2C:33-17b).

Fact #3 – Any person who serves or makes alcohol available to a person under the legal drinking age of 21 is subject to a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail per person served. Parents can be held civilly liable even if they are not present during the time of the party (NJSA 2C:33-17).

Fact #4 – If serving an underage person alcohol results in injury, the adult may be charged with Endangering the Welfare of Children, and may be subject to a fine of up to $15,000 and up to 5 years in state prison (NJSA 2C:24-4).

Fact #5 – New Jersey Law imposes civil liability on social hosts who serve alcohol to anyone under the legal drinking age of 21 who is subsequently involved in an incident causing injury or death.

Fact #6
 – A social host may be sued for up to two years after an incident that occurs resulting in injury or death. As the result of a lawsuit, your house, car, and bank accounts may be seized and future wages may be garnished.

What Can I Do?

Believe it or not, parents play a larger role in influencing adolescents than you may think:

• Teens reported to SAMHSA that they rely on the adults in their lives more than anyone else to help them make tough decisions and provide good advice. Letting your kids know your stance on drugs and alcohol can delay their use and reduce the risks that they face, giving them a better future to look forward to.

• Other studies show that teen behavior is strongly associated with parents’ behavior, so model good behavior. Getting drunk in front of your kids leads them to do the same.

• And finally, teen behavior is related to parent expectations: when you expect the worst, teens will deliver on that expectation. Not every kid in high school drinks. In fact, we know that over 50% of Ridge High School Sophomores have NOT had a drink in the past 30 days. If you expect your teen to do it, they will.

Parents have an enormous impact on the decisions their children make. Here are a few things you can do to reduce early alcohol use:

• Talk early and often: Maintaining open lines of communication lets kids know that they have someone to talk to when faced with tough decisions.

• Get involved – Talking with kids about their activities opens opportunities to share your interests and values.

• Be a good role model – In addition to your words, your actions are powerful indicators to your children of what is appropriate and acceptable. Don’t take part in illegal, unhealthy, dangerous practices related to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

• Teach kids to choose friends wisely – Help them to understand what qualities to look for in a friend.

• Monitor their activities – This includes knowing where your children are and getting acquainted with their friends and friends’ parents. Limit amount of time they spend without an adult present. Unsupervised kids have more opportunities to experiment with risky behaviors.

• Set clear rules – Having clear and consistent rules to follow protects children’s physical and mental well-being, lowering their risk for developing substance abuse problems. Rules and consequences should be specific, consistent, and reasonable, and good behavior should be recognized

Tips for Responsible Party Planning

Planning a Party

• A discussion of party plans should take place between parent and teen before the party.
• Planning should include a discussion of activities, the size of the party, guest list, food and hours.
• Other parents have found it a good idea to include some planned activities and the materials needed such as movies, music and games.

Ground rules for parties:

• No drugs or alcohol.
• No smoking.
• No leaving the party and then returning.
• Lights on.
• One person in the bathroom at a time.
• Parents should keep watch on purses, backpacks, coats and exits.

Parent responsibilities

Parent of host:

• Set fair guidelines and keep to them.
• Be in attendance at all parties, although not necessarily always in the same room.
• Serving refreshments is a good way for inconspicuous supervision. Parents should greets guests and be there when they leave.
• Set limits regarding the number of guests.
• Encourage small parties.
• You may want to ask other parents to help with the chaperoning (there is strength in numbers for parents, too.)
• Parents are responsible for the safety and welfare of the guests. You are liable for anything that may happen to guests as a result of their having had alcohol/drugs in your home even if you did not provide them with the alcohol/drugs.

Parent of guest:

• Check party plans beforehand. Know where, when and with whom your teen is going.
• Feel free to call host parents to see if there will be parental supervision and whether guidelines will be followed.
• Pre-arrange transportation home and pick up promptly at agreed time.
• Parent (or another responsible adult) should be available if a teen wants to leave the party early for any reason.

*If parents plan to be away overnight and are leaving teens at home, it is a good idea to ask a friend or neighbor to check your house for unauthorized gatherings.

Teen Responsibilities

Teen host:

• Provide list of guests for the parents.
• Inform guests as to when the party will begin and end.
• Do not readmit guests once they leave the party (some may go out to drink and/or smoke).
• Plan a full range of activities.

Teen guest:

• Respect hosts and their home.
• Prearrange transportation home.
• Arrange to leave the party if you do not feel 100% comfortable.
• When going to a party, inform your parents of the details, time, place, phone number, hours, etc.
• Call home if you are a going to be late for any reason.

Alternative activities:

Parties are in no way an obligatory part of growing up. There are many other activities such as going out to eat, bowling, exercising, going to movies or local concerts, working on a service project, etc., which may be more appropriate.

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