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Drug Abuse and Teens

What should a parent be looking for if they suspect their teen may be abusing drugs?

Below are just a few of the most outward signs:

  • Changes in mood or attitudes 
  • Unusual temper outbursts
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in hobbies or other interests
  • Signs of depression; withdrawal
  • Poor grooming
  • Hostility


School is up and running again and this is as good a time as any to watch your teenager more closely. Are they doing well in school, are they getting along with friends, and/or taking part in sports or other activities?

Let’s review the most often abused drugs by teenagers…keeping in mind that these drugs, i.e., alcohol, tobacco, Over-the-Counter and prescription drugs, inhalants and steroids are readily available and accessible to most underage users.

Alcohol: one in two teens in the United States used alcohol in the last year…alcohol is responsible for 85,000 deaths in the United States every year

Marijuana: is used by one in three teens in the U.S. It may cause slowed reaction time, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and depersonalization.

Tobacco: one in four teens uses tobacco each month. Toxic and highly addictive ingredients in tobacco are attributed to 435,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Prescription Pain Relievers: One in five teens abuses prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet, Codeine, and OxyContin. Most are readily accessible in many family medicine cabinets

Inhalants: One in six teens in the U.S. have abused inhalants. Also available around the house, these noxious chemicals such as paint thinners, nail polish remover, and glues can be deadly…inhalants can cause permanent damage to body organs and the brain

Cough medicine: One in eight teens abuse cough medicine. While safe when used as directed, cough medicine when used in excessive amounts can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea and even liver damage.

Ecstasy: One in eight teens use this ‘party drug’. While the after effect is a feeling of closeness and touching it can cause liver and heart failure…

Cocaine/Crack: One in nine teens abuse crack or cocaine in the U.S. Cocaine generally comes in white powder, while crack is a version of the same drug that looks like little crystals. Heart attacks, strokes, and seizures are common side effects.

Prescription Stimulants: One in 10 teens have abused Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Adderall. Stimulants such as these, in low doses, can calm individuals with ADHD. However, when used by individuals without ADHD and especially in larger amounts than prescribed, the results can be serious. High doses can produce lethal fevers, irregular heartbeat, seizures and heart attacks.

Prescription Sedatives: One in 11 teenagers have abused drugs like Xanax, Valium, Mebaral, and Quaaludes, causing slow heart and breathing rate, possible seizures and even death if medical detoxification is not performed safely in a hospital setting.

Methamphetamine: One in 14 teens have abused Meth, Crank, or Speed… a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol and is taken orally, by snorting, by needle injection, or by smoking. It is deadly and highly addictive. It often causes psychotic and/or violent behavior Paranoia and delusions, Hallucinations, insomnia, and anorexia, extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, anxiety, confusion, and insomnia. 

Steroids: One in 20 teens abuse steroids - a drug that causes excessive muscle growth and extreme irritability and often opposite sex characteristics; i.e. facial hair on women, breasts on men

Heroin: One in 20 teens abuse and most often become addicted to Heroin.  It is a depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain.

Sadly, there will always be new drugs and synthetic versions of older drugs showing up.  So as our parents did, so must we.  It is our turn to be on the look-out for physical and psychological signs of drug abuse and stay abreast of any ‘stranger-than-normal’ activity by our teenagers.  Without a doubt, it is a constant battle to stay ahead of those unsavory influences a young teenager is abt to succumb to.

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