How Drug and Alcohol Abuse Can Affect Grades

Drug and alcohol abuse can result in many negative consequences, especially for students. Beyond its effects on someone’s health and wellness, substance abuse can result in poor grades and failing academic performance. The side-effects of substance abuse — which include hangovers, withdrawal, fatigue and depression — can contribute to poor attendance, poor performance on assignments, suspensions, and even expulsion and drop outs.


There are conflicting studies addressing the link between drug and alcohol abuse in teens and academic performance and years spent in school. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that teens do put their mental health and intelligence at risk when they drink and use drugs during crucial years for brain development.


Teens today are finding more creative types of drugs to take that veer from the “classic” list of marijuana and alcohol. Over-the-counter drugs are increasingly popular among high school students because they are easily accessible and less suspicious. Cough syrup and Gravol are high on the popularity list, as are expired medications that families leave in the medicine cabinet.



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Substance abuse may not be accompanied by a drop in grades, so be sure to pay attention to other signs and symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse. These can include changes in friend groups, changes in eating and sleeping patterns,  depression and deteriorated relationships, especially within the family. Talking to your teen about their grades is also a good option for concerned parents, but remember to be supportive and understanding—express your concern without being harsh or judgemental.


Of course, many factors can be responsible for slipping grades. If you notice your teen’s grades or academic performance have fallen—especially if it’s a drastic shift—talk to their teachers and/or coaches to discuss your teen’s behavior in class. Schools will have attendance records and teachers will know if your teen has missed assignments, flunked tests or stopped showing up to class.

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