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Medical History for Teen Drug and Alcohol Use

During a routine medical history for a teen, the health professional may ask questions about alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, and drug use. The health professional may want to talk with the teen alone to obtain accurate information. Unless the teen reports being harmed by someone or threatens to harm someone else, the health professional will likely keep the information confidential.

A good medical history for a teen suspected of using substances includes information about which substances are being used, the quantity and frequency of use, and the setting for use.

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Friends' use and attitudes

The health professional may begin by asking your teen about substance use among his or her friends. Some questions might be:

  • Do your friends drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, use inhalants, or use drugs?
  • What do your friends think about teen substance use?
  • Do your friends ever get drunk or high at social activities?
  • Do your friends ever drive when they are high or drunk?

Teen's use

Some questions might be:

  • Have you ever drunk alcohol, smoked cigarettes, used an inhalant, or used drugs?
  • At what age did you use for the first time?
  • If you take drugs, which ones do you take?
  • How do you take the drug? (If he or she is using more than one, this question will be asked for each drug.)
  • When was the last time you used a substance?
  • How often do you use a substance?
  • Do you ever drink or use drugs when you are alone?
  • Do you ever get drunk or high at social activities?
  • Have any of your friends ever been concerned about your use of alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs?
  • Have you tried to cut down or quit using alcohol or another substance?

Teen's attitude

It is also important to find out the teen's attitude toward alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Questions may include:

  • Do you think use of alcohol is okay for people your age?
  • Do you think smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco are okay for people your age?
  • Do you think use of inhalants is safe?
  • Do you think use of certain drugs is okay? Which ones?
  • Do you think your use of alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, or drugs is a problem?

Home stress

The health professional will also ask about stress at home. Questions might include:

  • Do your parents or brothers and sisters drink alcohol, smoke, use inhalants, or use drugs? Are you concerned about their substance use?
  • How do you get along with your parents? Do you feel valued by your parents?
  • What do your parents think about your substance use?
  • Have you ever been physically or sexually abused?

Other psychiatric conditions

The health professional will ask questions to see if the teen needs to be evaluated for psychiatric conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or long-term depressed mood (dysthymic disorder). The health professional may also ask questions about physical or sexual abuse.

School and other issues

Questions about school and other issues might include the following:

  • Do you ever drink or use drugs while you are at school?
  • Have you missed school because you were drunk or hung over?
  • Are your grades in school getting worse? Do you like school? Are you thinking about dropping out?
  • Are you involved in sports or other activities, such as music?
  • How do you get along with your peers?
  • Have you ever driven a car after drinking or using drugs? Have you ridden with someone who has been drinking or using drugs?
  • Have you ever been arrested for alcohol or drugs? Have you had any other legal problems related to your substance use?
  • Are you sexually active?
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last Revised August 19, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 19, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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