This is the first in a series of posts about drugs that teens are abusing these days. A friend who is a social worker suggested I start this blog discussing some of the newer drugs that are gaining popularity. I am always amazed at the variety of things being offered to teens and surprised at how many teens admit to trying them. The substances being used include ones that have been around for centuries (alcohol, tobacco), but there are always going to be new things out there. For parents, it’s important to know what drugs are being offered to their kids, but it’s even more important to remember to teach teens how to be responsible for their health and say ‘no thank you’ to drugs. This series will discuss the new and old drugs being used by or offered to teens.
I’ll start the series talking about some of the newer drugs… bath salts and spice.
No these are NOT for use in your bath water! Bath salts are chemical substances marketed in very attractive packaging and labeled ‘not for human consumption’ so they can be sold in stores. Despite the nice packaging bath salts can be hazardous.
Ingestion leads to a high, but it can also lead to hallucinations, elevated heart rate and blood pressure. They can also cause thoughts of suicide which can persist even after the drug has worn off.
Spice has many alternative names including fake weed, K2, and skunk. It has also recently received media attention as the makers of the products have attempted to evade the Drug Enforcement Administration by marketing the products as ‘natural’ and labeling products as ‘not for human consumption.’ In fact spice has been fairly easy to obtain as it was sold in gas stations and on the internet in the past, but it is now illegal. Spice has become popular among teens (and adults) because it is seen as ‘natural’ and it is not detected by most drug screens. It is believed to be a ‘natural’ product because it consists of shredded plant material (like marijuana), but it also can contain chemical additives that lead to it’s psychoactive effects. Spice is often smoked or mixed with marijuana, but it can be used in teas as well.
Abusing spice can lead to a relaxed high (similar to marijuana), but because it includes unknown chemicals. The unknown chemicals are particularly scary to me. Spice can also lead to paranoia, anxiety, and hallucinations, increased blood pressure, lack of oxygen to the heart, or unpredictable toxic effects on the body.
So what can parents do to help their teens avoid exposure to these potentially dangerous drugs? First, communicate with your teen! Tell them your expectations of their behavior and why you do not want them using drugs. Discuss consequences ahead of time for the possibility of learning they’ve been using drugs. Keep the dialogue open. Take advantage of commercials, movies, or real life situations to talk about drug use and how it can affect a person’s health and life goals. If your teen admits they’ve been using and feels out of control, or you are concerned they are abusing drugs, talk with your teen’s medical provider. There are various treatment options available, but a professional should provide an assessment to determine which is the best fit for your teen.