Head: Four Dangerous Substances Parents (and Teens) Should Know About

It’s important for parents to educate their teens about the effects and consequences of substance abuse. The illegal – and legal – drug landscape has changed dramatically in the last 25 years with more dangerous substances being more accessible to most teens, including opioids and “bath salts,” which have hit too close to too many homes with fatal outcomes.

So, parents need to be aware of what illegal (and legal) drugs are accessible to teens; what the most common substances are; and what the effects and consequences are from continued use.  Troubled teen services, online programs for teens and even websites for therapeutic schools are just some of the great resources to start with and learn all about the concerns of teen substance abuse.

Elevations RTC, a co-ed residential treatment center, outlined a series of commonly abused substances among teens. It reports that teens “are much more likely to face health problems and academic difficulties” with frequent substance use. Drug abuse can also trigger troubled teen behavior and cause existing mental health issues to become much worse.

Here four substances to understand and learn about:

1. Alcohol

Easily accessible, affordable, and socially-accepted, alcohol poses a threat to thousands of teens every year. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that teen drinking (those aged from 12 to 20 years) accounts for 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States, with more than 90 percent of that figure involving binge drinking. Additionally, in 2013, there were approximately 119,000 “emergency rooms visits by those aged from 12 to 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.”

2. Opioids and Prescription Pain Killers

The America Addiction Centers says “opioid drugs are some of the most abused drugs in the U.S. due to their ability to ease stress, reduce anxiety and elevate moods to produce sensational effects or a high when taken recreationally.”

While they may make a teen feel great initially, they are very addictive, create severe mood changes and potentially lead to troubled teen behavior or make it much worse. Vicodin, OxyContin, and Tramadol, to name a few, are all commonly abused and continue to be listed as “drugs of concern” by the Drug Enforcement Administration. They are also known to be a gateway drug to even more severe and cheaper alternatives such as heroin or crystal meth.

3. Adderall

Given rising rate of various attention disorders among teens, prescription drugs such as Adderall or Dextroamphetamine are prescribed to handle the symptoms. Unfortunately, this has made these drugs commonly as they are easier to obtain from peers. While they create a euphoria feeling, negative side effects include fatigue, depression and lethargy.

4. Marijuana

Weed, pot, cannabis – call it what you want – marijuana is commonly used among countless of Americans – including teens – and is more accessible and socially-accepted than ever before. It’s legalized across Canada and among 11 U.S. States and can be taken in many forms including smoking, vaping and ingested through edibles or oil. Even though many positive effects are being realized through research, this seemingly harmless drug can cause teens to experience mood swings, lethargy, plus a number of long-term negative impacts on a teen’s mental and physical health. It’s also widely considered a gateway drug to more harmful and addictive substances.

So, what can teens and parents do? A good starting point is basically understanding what the substances are, realizing they are available, and knowing where they come from. Yet, regardless of drug that is used or abused, as there are many more, it’s extremely important for parents – and teens – to realize the short- and long-term negative impacts. They can greatly affect a teen’s physical and mental health and as a result, potentially disrupt school, personal progress and overall goals.

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