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The 4 deadliest drugs teens are taking

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Bath salts and glass cleaner top the list

Long gone are the days when parents worried only about their teens and underage drinking. Today's parents face the dangers of easily accessible designer drugs, including "bath salts" and "glass cleaner," as well as pharm parties and huffing household products. Dr. Yael Varnado, or Dr. V, knows that teens are in danger when it comes to substance abuse and she wants to raise awareness of the four deadliest drugs that teens are taking.

Bath salts and glass cleaner top the list

The streets are deadlier than ever for teens

Though the exact number on use of street drugs is largely unreported, Dr. V says many kids are turning to street drugs, prescription drugs and household products to get high. "Many teens are getting dangerous highs from drugs easily found in stores or homes and replacing underage drinking with them," warns the board-certified medical expert, who has been featured on CNN, FOX and CBS News. "The current four deadliest drugs being used by teens are glass cleaner, bath salts, 'huffing' household products, and engaging in 'Skittle parties.' "

Bath salts and glass cleaner top the listParents need more education on drugs teens may be taking

Don't think just because you have "good kids" that you don't need to worry about the latest in teen drug use. Stress, peer pressure and many other factors can result in the best of kids experimenting with drugs. The worst of it is that the go-to drugs of many teens are legal and easy to buy. "The danger of these drugs -- glass cleaner, bath salts, drugs at pharm parties and inhalants -- is that most of them are easily accessible," Dr. V explains. "For example, the synthetic drug called glass cleaner isn't illegal, which makes it more difficult to prevent the spread of it." Additionally, the computer cleaner Dust Off, a perfectly legal household product, is often the inhalant of choice for teens who are huffing.

Dr. V stresses the importance of parents educating themselves on drugs and staying involved in their teens' lives. Here's more on the new drugs your kids could be exposed to this school year, and ways you can reduce the risk of your children trying them.


Bath salts


How can parents prevent drug use in teens?

Dr. V considers this a life-saving guide for parents of teens.

Get involved in your kids’ school and be present: Keep in touch with the school. A lot of problems occur when kids come to school saying they don’t feel well – because they’re popping pills that interact with each other and have side effects.

Get educated: If your school offers forums on emerging drug trends, go! And make sure your child does too!

Get to know your kid’s friends: Instead of not care who your teens are hanging out with, get to know their friends from school and who they hang out with on the weekends.

Talk to your kids about drugs: Talk to them about prescription drugs and OTC drugs, and let them know they can be dangerous. Talk about all drugs, not just narcotics. Teach your kids about the side effects of drugs and help them understand that death isn’t the only consequence. For example, severe disability, such as brain damage, loss of function of limbs, blindness and other health problems can occur.

Be aware of any changes in your child's behavior: Changes in behavior may be a result of your teen using drugs.

Drug testing: If necessary, consider drug testing. You can do this with home drug kits or with your physician.

Dr. V warns, "Don’t let the soothing nickname of this drug fool you -- bath salts is the informal 'street name' for a family of designer, man-made drugs, which have effects similar to amphetamine and cocaine, and can be snorted, inhaled or injected." Bath salts resemble Epsom salts and are sold in colorful teen-friendly packages marked with "not for human consumption." While several states have banned the sale of bath salts, ultimately a federal law that labels these as a schedule 1 drug will have to be put in place to make them across-the-board illegal. In October 2011, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration made it illegal to possess or sell the three chemicals commonly used to make bath salts -- the synthetic stimulants mephredone, MDPV and methylone -- as well as the products that contain them.

According to Dr. V, users of bath salts experience headache, heart palpitations, nausea and cold fingers. Hallucinations, paranoia and panic attacks have also been reported, and news reports have noted associations with violent behavior, heart attack, kidney failure, liver failure, suicide and an increased tolerance for pain. The long-term effects of bath salts are unknown at this time because they are a new drug.


Glass cleaner

Though its name sounds benign, glass cleaner is a white, powdery substance made of a variety of chemicals that produce a high similar to cocaine. "It’s the newest drug on the scene and has the same effects as bath salts: extreme paranoia and hallucinations," says Dr. V. "It can be taken orally, rectally, snorted, smoked or through an IV." Users can feel the effects in minutes and the high lasts two to three hours. "Because of the chemical nature of the compound, it takes a greater amount of drug in order to get the same high as methamphetamines, which can lead to greater problems with addiction and increase the risk of overdose," adds the medical expert.


Skittle parties

Skittle parties, also called pharm parties, are not a specific drug, but rather an "event" where teens exchange prescription drugs they swipe from their parents or grandparents, says Dr. V. "At a lot of the parties, kids just throw the pills on the table like candy that you can take home with you," she adds. Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic, particularly among teens. Studies by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America report that every year almost 4.5 million kids take prescription drugs including Vicodin, oxycodone and Ritalin to get high.

A 2009 study by the CDC found that about one in five high school students says he or she has abused prescription drugs. Dr. V is especially concerned about research that shows that prescription drug abuse is on the rise and that it can be a gateway to heroin and cocaine. "There are teens and tweens who are abusing prescription drugs, alone and with friends at 'Skittle parties,' that we just haven’t found out about it yet; and it may be that when we do, it’s too late as they may be victims of an overdose."



Though most people can't imagine inhaling household products, huffing is a dangerous trend among teens. "Though huffing, or inhaling household products, is not a new phenomenon, experts have started to see an increase in teens huffing the computer cleaner called Dust Off (found in most office supply stores), a trend that started a few years ago," says Dr. V. "Kids love that the high can be felt almost immediately; you don't have to wait for something to happen." Users report a loss of inhibitions and lightheadedness, but may also experience nausea, nosebleeds, impaired coordination, permanent damage to brain, heart, liver, kidneys and lungs, and, in some cases, death. Dr. V warns, "Users can suffer from sudden cardiac death from arrhythmias – at first usage."

Your best defense as a parent is to be proactive and learn everything you can right now -- not when you've discovered your child is experimenting with these or any other drugs. Knowledge is power and your child's life depends on it.

More on teens and drugs

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Could my teen be using undetectable drugs?
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