Teenagers have long dabbled in illegal drug use, so hearing that today's young people experiment with substances is not that shocking. Many headlines report that dangerous drug use is skyrocketing in the United States and that our streets are more dangerous now than ever for teens, when in fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in 2015 that illicit drug use among adolescents
may actually be on the decline.
But that doesn't mean it's not happening. And while the Office of Adolescent Health says
tobacco, alcohol and marijuana still seem to be teenagers' drugs of choice, a new crop of popular drugs have popped up in the past decade or so. These drugs are even more dangerous than the aforementioned booze, cigarettes and pot — mostly because your teen can be taking them at home without you even knowing it.
More: Rural Drug Use Contributes to Rise in Early Deaths for White & Native Americans 1. Spice
Spice, also commonly referred to as K2,
was legal up until 2012 and is made up of a variety of different chemicals that don't even really have names according to Narconon. It's marketed as a cheap, fun, synthetic marijuana that doesn't show up on drug tests. However, the drug testing industry has caught up with spice, and there are now tests that can be given to detect its use. It's often packaged to look similar to incense. which also dangerously makes it seem benign.
According to Narconon, unlike real marijuana, this unnatural designer drug can cause a ton of dangerous adverse reactions, like:
Seizures and tremors Coma and unconsciousness Vomiting Hallucinations and paranoia Numbness and tingling Very high blood pressure and heart rate, high enough to cause damage or danger Anxiety and panic attacks Threatening behavior and aggression Terrible headaches Inability to speak Violent paranoia
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that synthetic cannabinoids can result in acute kidney injury.
"Easy access and the misperception that these products are harmless have contributed to their popularity. These products are extremely harmful and
anyone who has them should throw them out," says Amy Wolkin, leader of the health studies branch team that investigated a spice outbreak in Colorado, via the CDC. 2. Fentanyl
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, can be 100 times more potent than morphine according to
The New York Times, and its use is currently running rampant in the United States.
The CDC reported over
30,000 fentanyl-related deaths in 2015, and the drug's popularity doesn't show any signs of slowing. A user can overdose within minutes of swallowing, injecting or snorting the drug.
Even scarier? Until recently, fentanyl was pretty much unheard of outside the medical community, where it was regularly prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges, says
The Times. Now, users gravitate to fentanyl because it gives them a higher high than heroin.
More: Teens Who Get Booze at Home Are Less Likely to Binge Drink 3. Smoking alcohol
Teens have found that vaporizing alcohol gives them a quicker buzz, but the practice is much more dangerous that just drinking normally. When you swallow alcohol, your body has a bit more time to process it — but when you inhale it, everything happens in an instant.
"The normal sensation when you drink and you are getting more drunk is to vomit:
It's your body's way of expelling alcohol," explained Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital, via Today. "However, when you inhale alcohol, your brain has no way of expelling it."
Young people are attracted to smoking alcohol because of the popular misconceptions that it can help you lose weight and it's hard for parents or authorities to detect (both of which are not true).
Huffing among teens is nothing new, but it's still popular — mostly because it's easy for teenagers to get their hands on household products that will get them high. It seems to be most popular among very young teens. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3.8 percent of eighth graders, 2.4 percent of 10th graders and 1.7 percent of 12th graders reported that they had
abused inhalants at least once in the past year in 2016.
Short-term effects include confusion, nausea, slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, dizziness, drowsiness, hallucinations, sudden sniffing due to heart failure, death from asphyxiation, suffocation, convulsions or seizures, coma or choking. Long-term effects include liver and kidney damage, bone marrow damage, limb spasms due to nerve damage and brain damage from lack of oxygen.
Obviously, huffing is no joke. Here's a brief list of common items found in your home that can be used to get high (but just know that this is not totally inclusive):
Spray paint Nail polish remover Computer cleaning products (known as dusting) Whipped cream aerosol cans (known as whip-its) Rubber cement Shoe polish Paint thinners Felt-tip markers Gasoline Lighter fluid Cooking spray Fabric protector
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.
More: Vaping Teens Came Up With "Dripping," and It's Disgusting
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Originally published February 2016. Updated February 2017.