To help keep your child drug-free, it’s important to be informed and know what drugs are available and how to identify the signs of abuse. New drugs, like synthetic marijuana, seem to emerge all the time and present new challenges to parents and law enforcement officials. Prescription drugs are also abused by people of all ages at an alarming rate.
Even with these challenges, there are ways to prevent drug and alcohol abuse. By openly communicating with your child and educating him or her about the risks of drugs, you are empowering your child to make good and healthy decisions. Conversations are one of the most powerful tools parents can use to connect with — and protect — their kids. Talk to your kids early and often at every age about drugs and alcohol. They are listening.
We have compiled a list of commonly abused drugs, warning signs and prevention methods to help you stay informed and to protect your child.
The 10 Most Commonly Abused Drugs
- Alcohol - Alcohol is the #1 abused substance in the United States. Nearly a quarter of the population participates in binge drinking (58.6 million), and 6.7% of the population reported heavy drinking (16.9 million). As a depressant, alcohol produces impaired coordination and judgment, slurred speech, and blackouts.
- Tobacco - One quarter of Americans (6.9 million) are users of a tobacco product, the second most commonly used drug. Smoking stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain by turning on the body’s natural chemicals that produces euphoria. With over 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, smoking also causes long-term systemic effects, such as high blood pressure, and has been proven to increase cancer risk.
- Marijuana - Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America and the #1 most abused illicit drug. The dried parts of the Cannabis plant can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination and problems with learning and memory. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient in marijuana responsible for its “high” feelings.
- Prescription Drugs - With the surge of prescription drug abuse in the past decade, there should be no wonder that it ranks #4 on the list. Painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin are the most abused prescription drugs. Besides their analgesic properties, they can produce effects similar to heroin.
- Cocaine - Nearly 1.5 million people in America are current users of this familiar white powder. Due to its short-lived yet powerful effects of euphoria, cocaine use results in severe psychological dependence and intense drug cravings. Tolerance builds quickly, and the phrase "dope fiend" was originally coined to describe the negative side effects of constant cocaine use.
- Inhalants - Inhalants are the vapors form toxic substances that are able to produce a high. The most often used are shoe polish, glue, gasoline, spray paint, cleaning fluid, “poppers,” and nitrous oxide. Users experience feelings similar to anesthetics, with an initial high and loss of inhibition followed by drowsiness, slurred speech and agitation.
- Ecstasy - Ecstasy, also called MDMA, is one of the most popular drugs among youth today. It is the club drug of choice, producing feelings of euphoria, alertness, hallucinations, and feelings of closeness with others. However, nearly 65% of pills sold as Ecstasy contain other substances, making the effects both unpredictable and dangerous.
- Hallucinogens - Although hallucinogens include half a dozen or more drugs such as PCP and Ketamine, LSD is by far the most popular. Also known as “acid,” LSD is the most potent hallucinogen in the world. Often sold on blotting paper, or “window panes,” the effects of LSD are unpredictable, altering the user’s mood, personality, and sensations of reality.
- Methamphetamine - Meth, crank, or speed produces feelings of well-being and energy lasting from 4 to 16 hours, making it a popular drug for parties and night clubs. Highly addictive, meth burns up the body’s resources and creates of dependence relieved only by taking more the drug.
- Heroin - Heroin, made from the resin of poppy plants, is a highly addictive form of opiate. It can be injected, smoked, or sniffed, heroin.
New and Emerging Dangers
- Synthetic drugs - The most popular and commonly used synthetic drug is that of the synthetic cannabinoids, or fake marijuana. This synthetic marijuana is sold over the internet, in gas stations, smoke shops, and other “head shops” and marketed as a herb or incense. it has a potency from 100-800 times of your traditional marijuana, cocaine, and other stimulants, and in many states, it is legal. Synthetic marijuana has many different brand names and labels, but all are created with the same characteristics and similar chemicals. Such brand names include: K-2, Spice, Krypto, Legal Bud, Genie, Wicked, Blue Dragon, Black Mamba, Blaze, Red-X Dawn, Bliss, Zohai, Mr. Smiley, and so on. Although the packaging usually indicates that it is not for human consumption, the use of synthetic marijuana has been on the rise.
- Smoking Alcohol - This practice is dangerous, it is not illegal. It is being practiced by young adults all over the country and causing serious medical emergencies and deaths as a result. Because this is a returning trend, unfamiliar to health care providers, there is no statistical data available concerning hospitalizations and deaths. The danger of smoking alcohol is related to the rapid absorption of alcohol into the blood stream and its effects on the brain. When a person binge drinks too quickly the result is nausea and vomiting. In addition, when alcohol is absorbed from the intestines it makes a direct route through the liver assisting in the detoxification. This often prevents alcohol poisoning. But, when alcohol vapors are inhaled these protective processes do not occur. Instead, large amounts of alcohol can enter the blood stream move directly to the brain and cause alcohol poisoning (toxicity).
- Molly – The drug is a pure powder form of Ecstasy in a pill. The substance is made in clandestine laboratories and consists of a mixture of Amphetamines and mescaline (a hallucinogen) among other drugs. It has been around for a while but has most recently resurfaced. The substance makes the user feel energized, euphoric, emotionally heightened and have distorted perception of their senses and time. At one time, it was known as a “rave drug” but has become more mainstream. Drug users sell this as the drug that will get a user high but not addicted. The risks of using Molly are involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision and chills, increased body temperature and sweating, severe dehydration, muscle breakdown, seizures, increased heart rate and blood pressure, kidney, liver and heart failure.
- Hookahs - According to Monitoring the Future (a survey that measures the behavior, attitudes and values of youth), in the past year the prevalence rate for hookah smoking in 2012 was 18.3% (up from 17.1% in 2010). Hookahs are water pipes that are used to smoke flavored tobacco. Groups sit around this mechanism and share mouthpieces that are attached to the pipe. Some people say this is a safe way to smoke tobacco, but it is NOT. Using tobacco in this way, can cause cancer, oral infections, danger to a fetus and decreased fertility due to more smoke being inhaled than cigarettes, charcoal being used to heat the tobacco and sharing mouthpieces. Hookah bars and lounges have become a trend for adults and hookahs can also be brought online.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Warning Signs
- Changing to a new group of friends
- Caring less about school or a drop in grades
- Unusual behavior that you have never seen before
- Caring less about extracurricular activities
- Talk to your kids early and often at every age about drugs and alcohol. They are listening.
- Set a positive example for your kid by quitting any bad habits that you have.
- Tell your child about the legal consequences that drugs and alcohol can have on them.
- Most importantly, spend time and really get to know your child.
- Make clear cut rules and consequences for any drug- or alcohol-related usage.
- If your child is going to a social gathering, let your child know that you can pick them up if needed. Be sure to make them realize that they will still be punished for breaking any rules.
- Encourage your child to choose friends that aren’t using drugs or alcohol.
- Get to know your child’s friends and their parents.
- Teach refusal skills through role play and practice.
- Engage in family activities to promote healthy habits.