I’ve heard advertisments on the radio recently for a popular electronic music concert festival. Music festivals are often a place for young people to gather, create memories, and just enjoy their favorite artisits. While I am a big fan of live music, summer music festivals have been associated with drug overdoses in the past. The concert venues do their best to keep the festivals clean by having security present, a screening process for entry, and help available, but there is still a risk that people will get high. Since the summer is coming along with many different outdoor festivals, it’s timely to provide parents and teens with an update on some newer substances that may make an appearance.
I asked my colleagues in substance use prevention and friends who’ve raised adolescents what some of the newer trends are in substance use in Washington state. In this post I’ll briefly describe the drugs. My hope is to increase awareness NOT to scare parents. Most teens do not use drugs, but sometimes even kids who’ve never tried anything before may be offered an illicit substance.
25I-NBOMe is a psychedelic drug that was initially created in the early 2000’s as a radiotracer for medical imaging studies (PET scans of the brain). It is thought to be orally inactive (inactive if swallowed). It is most commonly ingested via blotter paper where it’s absorbed via buccal (cheek) or sublingual (under the tongue) routes. It can also be snorted. 25 I does not show up on urine toxicology screens. It can be mistaken for LSD. This drug is very potent with small amounts leading to significant effects. One parent told me: “if someone reports going on a bad trip, consider 25I.” People who’ve used 25 I may report hallucinations and psychosis. Dangerous side effects include tachycardia (elevated heart rate), seizure, acute renal failure, and elevated white blood cell count.
2 CB was created in the 1970’s initially as a psychiatric drug. It was later promoted as an aphrodiasiac under names like “Eros” and “Nexus.” It comes in the form of a white powder or pill and people may mistake the drug for cocaine or ecstasy. The side effects include colorful hallucinations (like water colors) and people may have difficulty concentrating. Some have reported a ‘better high’ when taking the drug while listening to music. Side effects include body tremors, GI upset, tachycardia, and scary hallucinations/paranoia.
There have been posts on e-cigarettes, e-cigs being used to smoke marijuana in the past. While electronic cigarettes or vaporized cigarettes are not new, they are becoming more and more popular amongst teens. Their ease of use, small size, and lack of vapor make it more challenging to notice when a teen may be using. Whether the substance being vaporized is nicotine or marijuana, both can have effects on the health of adolescents. See our previous posts for more details.
Over the counter (OTC) drugs of abuse
I’ve heard the terms robotripping, skittles, and triple C to denote abuse of over the counter cough syrups. While this is not new, our substance abuse colleagues are hearing more stories from teens about getting high using these drugs. Dextremethrophan is the active ingredient in cough syrups like Robitussin, Nyquil, and Corricidin. It can be mixed with alcohol or other drugs or can be taken alone. In high doses it produces hallucinations and dissociative events (out of body experiences). It’s also very cheap, widely available, and there are no restrictions on who can purchase it. A typical therapeutic dose is 15-30mg but doses used for the mind altering effects go up to 360mg (a full bottle). Side effects include tachycardia (elevated heart rate), sweating, dry mouth, nausea/vomiting, hallucinations, numb hands and feet. Ongoing use has been associated with decreased memory, behavior change, and decline in cognitive function.
Prescription drug abuse
There are a wide array of drugs that fall into this category! While it’s impossible to discuss every single drug that can be abused, prescription drugs are easily obtained and can be mixed leading to devastating consequences. Some of the more commonly abused drugs include prescription pain medications (such as Oxycodone, Vicodin, Oxycontin) and stimulant medications used to treat ADHD (such as Adderall and Ritalin). Here is a great guest post on prescription and OTC drug abuse and another previous post on chronic pain and prescription drug abuse.
Heroin use is on the rise in Washington state. As the street value of prescription pain medications like Oxycontin and Vicodin rise, cheaper alternatives also increase. Heroin is a cheaper alternative. It is also showing up in much purer forms than in the past, making it more dangerous and increasing the risk for overdose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 3% of youth under age 14 had tried heroin. A recent summit at the University of Washington dedicated to increasing awareness highlighted that victims dying from heroin are young. It is changing from a drug used by seasoned addicts to one used earlier in addiction.
What can parents and teens do with all of this information? Well, we know that scare tactics to protect teens don’t work very well, but awareness and open communication are useful.
- Talk with your teens about what they expect to happen at concerts, festivals, and raves.
- Practice what to do or say if someone offers them something to get high.
- Discuss urban myths and your teen’s understandings of the effects of substances. Teens constantly hear the message ‘don’t use drugs’ but they less commonly hear the real stories from providers who’ve cared for overdose victims and may not understand that side effects do happen.
Watch for warning signs of drug use which can include:
- a drop in school performance
- mood swings
- changes in friends
- social withdrawal and isolation
If you’re concerned, seek help. Talk to you primary care provider and look for treatment resources through sites like the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).