Drugs of Choice Among Teens
Teenagers are increasingly turning to prescription drugs as drugs of abuse. (To read the latest SAMHSA news release about the problem, click here: http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/0911050133.aspx ) While different drugs affect the brain in different ways, youth are using them to achieve a “high,” whether that be a high characterized by euphoria and stimulation or a relaxed state. Common drugs of abuse include:
Opioids/Narcotics: A recent U.S. General Accounting Office report showed that it was relatively easy to get Vicodin and hydrocodone without a prescription from Internet pharmacies, many of them located overseas. Oxycontin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone) are from the same family of drugs as heroin. In the medical context, these drugs give pain relief to people recovering from surgery or coping with terrible back pain. But these are powerfully addictive drugs that users need more and more of to get the desired effect. Before long, because of the terrible withdrawal that comes from not using opiates regularly, users find themselves preoccupied with finding the next pill and will do anything to get it — just like heroin addicts. Some teens abuse opiates by crushing and snorting the drug, which gets the drug to the bloodstream faster. When opiate users take too many opiates, drink alcohol or use sedatives with opiates, the effect can shut down the center of the brain that tells the lungs to breathe. In some states, the No. 1 killer drug is now an opiate.
Stimulants: Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, and amphetamine are part of a class of drugs called “stimulants,” prescribed for attention deficit disorder, asthma or narcolepsy. When used correctly, they are usually safe. But when abused, especially in large doses or after crushing the pills, these substances can produce a similar high — and cause the same harm — as methamphetamine and other illegal drugs. Stimulants can cause erratic heart beat, called arrhythmias, drive body temperatures dangerously high, or even cause fatal seizures. Arrhythmias like ventricular tachycardia and Torsades des Points can be fatal. Combining antidepressants or decongestants with these stilmulants create a high risk of heart problems.
Depressants: Barbiturates, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers/sedatives are prescribed to calm people’s nerves, reduce anxiety and relieve insomnia. Depressants such as these work by slowing down the brain's activity. Depressants are also known as central nervous system depressants, and include benzodiazepines (Valium, Klonopin, Xanax), barbiturates (phenobarbital, Mebaral, Fiorinal) and sedatives/hypnotics (Halcion, Ambien, ProSom). These drugs can slow down the heart and lungs and cause death. Used regularly, these drugs can be addictive, and suddenly stopping use of these drugs can cause fatal seizures. If you suspect your teen is using Xanax, or other sedatives or benzodiazepines, you should seek out a physician’s help in detoxing off the medication slowly.
Club drugs are being used by young adults at all-night dance parties such as "raves" or "trances," dance clubs, and bars. MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, methamphetamine, and LSD are some of the club or party drugs gaining popularity. Research sponsored by the National Institute of Drug Abuse has shown that use of club drugs can cause serious health problems and, in some cases, even death. Used in combination with alcohol, these drugs can be even more dangerous.
Repeated abuse of MDMA is associated with long-term damage to serotonin-containing neurons in the brain. Given the important role that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays in regulating emotion, memory, sleep, pain, and higher order cognitive processes, it is likely that MDMA use can cause a variety of behavioral and cognitive consequences as well as impair memory.
Because some club drugs are colorless, tasteless, and odorless, they can be added unobtrusively to beverages by individuals who want to intoxicate or sedate others. In recent years, there has been an increase in reports of date rape from spiking drinks with club drugs.
To learn more about specific club drugs, click on the following links: