Drug Abuse in Teens
The topic of drug abuse has been explored for years, but I’m going to concentrate on drug abuse in teens here. This topic is one that holds my interest – for several reasons. One reason is because I taught high school students for years, so I’ve seen what drug abuse can do to young people. Another reason is because my own children had a few scrapes with substance abuse when they were younger. They had friends who ended up as addicts, too. I have nine grandchildren who will be teenagers in a few years, and, of course, I’m already worrying about them. I’ve always found drug abuse among teenagers to be especially sad. These young people should be enjoying life instead of dealing with the symptoms of teenage drug abuse. The root of the problem also concerns me. Why do so many teens feel the need to turn to drugs? In this article, I discuss some sobering drug abuse facts that focus especially on drug abuse in teens.
Drug Abuse in Teens
Drug abuse in teens can be serious business, and it can have devastating consequences. Of course, this might depend on the type and frequency of the substance abuse. There’s a big difference in a teen who might take a couple of hits off a joint at a party from time to time than one who has a crack addiction. Perhaps you see all illegal substances as being equal, but I don’t. Some drugs are simply much more addictive than others, and some have more devastating consequences than others.
Unfortunately, I’ve found that many parents are “in the dark” about teenage drug abuse. They don’t realize how prevalent illegal drugs are in most American towns and cities. I live in a small town in South Georgia, and I assure you that I could obtain any illegal substance I might want in just a few minutes, at any given time. Our high school periodically has unannounced visits and searches done by drug enforcement and drug-sniffing dogs, and rarely do they come up empty handed. This never failed to amaze me when I was teaching. I mean, the students knew that the drug dogs might show up at any time, yet the kids still felt the need to bring drugs to school. What were they thinking?
Drug abuse in teens knows no boundaries. It can affect any child, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic group. Here in the Deep South, a lot of emphasis is place on “coming from a good family.” Well, I have news for you: Drugs don’t care how “good” your family is! Check out the drug abuse statistics below.
Drug Abuse Statistics
If you’re a parent of a teenager, I hope you take these drug abuse statistics to heart. More than a third of teens in the U.S. report having smoked pot in the past year. One in ten used amphetamines, and about 4% tried huffing. More than five percent reported using cocaine in the previous twelve months. What’s even scarier, however, is the easy availability of illegal drugs reported in the drug abuse facts. Close to 90% of teens know where to get pot quickly, and almost 50% know how to obtain cocaine powder. Four out of ten teenagers know where they can turn for crack, and almost three in ten know where they can easily get crystal meth. And when it comes to ecstasy or MDMA, only a third of teens are aware of the dangerous side effects associated with this form of substance abuse. These drug abuse statistics and findings should serve as an eye-opener to parents everywhere.
I read recently that more American teenagers smoke pot now than smoke tobacco. I don’t have a real problem with adults smoking marijuana, but I don’t think kids should do it. Problems can arise with marijuana addiction, but that’s pretty rare. Marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, tobacco, and heroin, for example. Studies show that less than 10% of regular uses will ever develop a serious marijuana addiction.
On the other hand, marijuana can be psychologically addictive – more like a pleasurable habit than a physical dependence. This can occasionally cause problems for the user, though. I’ll give you an example. I know two guys who smoke pot several times a day. One guy has been doing it for decades, and he has absolutely no ambition. He’s very intelligent and talented, and he had the chance to attend college but didn’t. He doesn’t have a regular job, and he doesn’t want one. He does odd jobs here and there – earning just enough to barely scrape by. Guy number two is a hard worker. He has a full time job and works overtime whenever it’s offered. Can the first guy’s lack of ambition be blamed on marijuana addiction? I really don’t know for sure.
Another problem with marijuana addiction is that it’s an illegal substance in most states. If you’re caught with less than an ounce, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. For more than an ounce, you’ll get a more serious charge. Many employers also do drug testing now, for potential employees and for people already employed by the business. If random drug tests show marijuana use, the employee can be fired immediately. In this present economy, losing a job can be devastating.
Around here, drug abuse in teens includes psilocybin mushrooms. The “magic mushrooms” grow wild, usually around cow manure. We’re surrounded by cattle pastures, so kids can find the ‘shrooms easily, and even better, they’re free. Psilocybin is a psychedelic drug that causes hallucinations, along with a high that can last for several hours. The high isn’t always pleasant, however. “Bad trips” can cause paranoia, anxiety attacks, and disturbing and even frightening sensory images. Of course, there’s also the potential of choosing very poisonous mushrooms by mistake, too.
Magic mushrooms are usually made into a tea. Methods for making the tea vary, and it can even be made with a standard drip coffee maker. According to research, small amounts of psilocybin mushrooms don’t cause as much physical damage as many other recreational drugs, but occasionally, troubling effects can recur much later.
Huffing – Inhalants
I’ve never known any adults who abused inhalants, but I have known several kids who engaged in huffing. This includes teens and even pre-teens. Huffing involves breathing in the propellants used in aerosol sprays. These are sometimes soaked into a rag or cloth and breathed in, inhaled directly from the spray can or other container, or by using plastic over the mouth in order to concentrate the vapors. The inhalants cause various effects, including hallucinations, a feeling of well being, and/or a psychedelic effect. Sometimes huffing results in a similar feeling to being drunk.
Huffing can be a very dangerous form of drug abuse. Inhaling the solvents and gases involved can cause pneumonia, heart attack, frostbite, muscle spasms, loss of hearing, damage to the central nervous system, sudden cardiac arrest, suffocation, lead poisoning, liver damage, or carbon monoxide poison. Unfortunately, huffing is very accessible. I’d venture to guess that few homes in America lack the presence of some type of inhalants like those in aerosol cans and butane lighters.
The type of bath salts I’m referring to here aren’t the kind you dissolve in your bathwater. I’m talking about the bath salts drug. These small crystals are made from synthetic stimulants like mephedrone, methylone, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV for short. Bath salts are usually described as designer drugs, and they’re fairly new to the drug scene. In some states, the bath salt drug or drugs is even legal. It’s sold under the guise of bath salts, although the packages usually contain a warning that states “not for human consumption.”
Bath salts are often chopped and snorted, but they can also be smoked, injected, or taken orally. They usually mimic amphetamines in effects. They can cause rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, liver failure, headaches, paranoia, anxiety attacks, kidney failure, irritability, hallucinations, nausea, and heart attacks. Users of bath salts might even become violent and aggressive, and there’s an association with suicide.
Bath Salts Drug Test
A special bath salts drug test is used to detect the chemicals. Regular drug tests don’t reveal their presence. A mass spectrometer is combined with gas chromatography to identify the substances in explosives, luggage, drugs, and samples from the environment, including soil, water, and air. This type of detailed analysis is often used to identify pollutants, explosives in airports, poisons in forensics, residual ingredients from fires, and harmful substances in foods, beverages, and cosmetics. It’s also the only reliable bath salts drug test, and it works on both urine and hair samples.
Crack addiction is usually devastating. Some experts claim that if you’ve smoked crack more than once, you’re a crack addict. I have no idea if this is true or not, as I’ve never smoked crack. I do, however, personally know teens who became crack addicts. A close friend of our family got hooked on crack cocaine. I’ll call her “Sue.” Sue was a bright, beautiful young lady from a good family. She was popular and had lots of friends. She and another family friend, Mary, both fell in with the “party crowd,” and both were encouraged to smoke crack at a big bash. Mary never tried it again, but Sue quickly developed a crack addiction. She quit school at the age of seventeen, spent time in jail, and has been in and out of numerous rehabs. She straightened up for a while, got married, and had a baby girl. Unfortunately, she returned to her crack addiction soon after the child was born. She lost custody of her daughter, spent more time in jail, and spent more time in rehabs. The last we heard, she was trading sex for crack in dangerous, drug-infested neighborhoods.
Most crack addicts will do practically anything for another crack high. They might lie, cheat, and steal to get the money they need for rock. They often have a love-hate relationship with the drug. They feel an overwhelming urge for another high, even if they realize crack has completely taken over their lives. In some cases, the high isn’t as alluring as stopping the terrible withdrawal symptoms. Crack delivers an almost immediate high, which is followed by a very deep low.
Crack Addiction Recovery
Crack addiction recovery is tough. Smoking crack is so pleasurable, and the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that it’s very hard to give up the drug. Sue, the young woman I told you about who has a crack addiction, talked to me about her problem several times. She desperately wants to give up crack, as she knows it’s ruining her life. And I have to give her credit for attempting crack addiction recovery, even though she hasn’t had long term success. After her various stays in rehabs, she’d do well for a while, but she’s always returned to crack.
Crack addiction recovery is addressed differently by different rehabs. Many treat crack addiction as a disease and attack the problem as such. Some rehabs use a twelve-step program to address the disease, using a variety of methods. These might include morals, personal responsibility, self esteem, communication skills, and learning to handle negative situations in an effective and positive manner. Unfortunately, most rehabs for crack addiction recovery have a pretty dismal success rate. A few, however, claim to have a 70% success rate. Most of these rehabs treat the entire person – physically, emotionally, and psychologically – instead of just the crack addiction itself. Most of these rehabs focus on the future instead of the past. They might teach addicts how to think critically, how to control their own future, and how to “fit in” to society and become a productive citizen.
I know of only a handful of high school students with a cocaine abuse problem. Cocaine is pretty expensive, so most teens might have trouble affording it on a regular basis. Cocaine abuse can cost more than $1,000 a day. A cocaine high isn’t as fast or as pleasurable as a crack high, and it’s not as addictive as smoking the rock form of cocaine. Cocaine abuse can still be dangerous, however, and it can also be addictive. This has been proven many times with laboratory animals. When the animals could dispense the drug themselves, they’d do it over and over again, sometimes neglecting to eat and drink water.
Cocaine is a white powder that’s usually snorted through a straw. The powder is cut up with a razor blade and divided into thin lines. The user sticks a short section of a drinking straw into his nose and snorts a line of the powder through a nostril. Usually, another line is snorted into the other nostril. Cocaine is a stimulant that affects a chemical in the brain called “dopamine.” Dopamine provides a rush of pleasurable sensations.
Cocaine abuse can be dangerous, even deadly, because it constricts blood vessels and increases heart rate. It also causes blood pressure to increase – sometimes dramatically. Heart attacks and strokes sometimes result – some lethal. Cocaine abuse can also cause damage to the inside of the nose, including holes in tissues. Frequent nose bleeds can also occur.
Cocaine Addiction Symptoms
Cocaine addiction symptoms vary from user to user. Some of the most common include loss of appetite, animation, excessive talking, headache, and dizziness. Other cocaine addiction symptoms include frequent nose sniffling, sores or bleeding inside the nose, dilated pupils, shortness of breath, chest pain, and the overuse of nasal decongestants. Cocaine addicts might also be desperate for money, as the habit isn’t cheap.
Cocaine addiction symptoms are often more evident when the user has to go without the drug for a time. He might become very restless and irritable, experience severe headaches, or suffer bouts of depression. He might also experience sleep-related problems – sleeping too much or having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. He might have scary, detailed nightmares, too. Fatigue is another frequently seen symptom. What goes up must come down, and there’s always a crash after the high.
Ecstasy - MDMA
Ecstasy was a problem in the high school where I taught. The real name of the drug is methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine. You see why the name was shortened to MDMA or ecstasy. It’s also called “mollie,” “mandy,” “sweeties,” “love drug,” “skittles,” “beans,” “E bomb,” “Scooby snacks,” and “hug drug.” Ecstasy is usually taken in the form of small tablets, and by the time they graduate from high school, about 6% of teens have tried MDMA.
Taking ecstasy delivers a feeling of inner happiness and a sense of peace and tranquility. It also improves self-confidence during the high. It’s often called the love drug or the hug drug because it increases the desire for intimacy. MDMA often makes the user feel more alert and more in control of otherwise anxious situations.
Teenage drug abuse with MDMA is often done at parties, from what I’ve seen and heard. In the United States, ecstasy is pretty cheap. Sometimes a group of teens will split an “order” to reduce the cost of individual pills. In that case, the MDMA pills can cost as little as four or five bucks each. The high usually lasts for a couple of hours, so teens see it as a good value. Of course, they’re not taking into consideration all the possible damage the “happy pills” are doing to their bodies.
MDMA can cause insomnia, diarrhea, constipation, teeth grinding, hallucinations, vertigo, anxiety attacks, paranoia, heart palpitations, and trouble concentrating. More serious side effects include pulmonary hypertension, heart damage, stroke, loss of consciousness, heart arrhythmia, and shortness of breath. MDMA abuse can also result in organ failure, hemorrhage, and coma. Death has also occurred from MDMA abuse.
In the 1990s, crystal meth was a problem in our community, but it seems to have decreased in the past few years. Several years ago, crystal meth labs in our town were being “busted” on a regular basis, and the reports appeared in the daily newspaper. I don’t see nearly as many instances now, though, so either the manufacture and use of crystal meth are decreasing, or the makers are getting better at hiding their labs.
Crystal meth is the term often used for methamphetamine when it’s in crystal form. The white crystals are usually smoked, but they can also be snorted, swallowed, or made into a suppository. In some cases, the meth is dissolved and delivered via a needle. Crystal meth provides a high that can last for more than ten hours, and the substance is highly addictive. Teenage drug abuse sometimes includes crystal meth because it’s fairly easy to make, even though the process itself can be very dangerous.
Other names for crystal meth are “ice,” “chalk,” “glass,” “blade,” “Tina,” “Yaba,” “Shabu,” “stove top,” “shards,” “Ventana,” “Christy,” and “quartz.” Most of the teenagers around here, however, use the term “crank” to describe crystal meth. And I overheard numerous conversations about the substance.
Crystal Meth Addiction
Crystal meth addiction is sometimes easy to identify. One typical sign is “meth mouth,” which includes rotting and missing teeth. Crystal meth addiction might also cause weight loss, profuse sweating, nausea, insomnia, hyperactivity, constant opening and closing of the mouth, irritability, mental confusion, increased sex drive, feelings of euphoria, increased alertness, tremors, and teeth grinding.
More serious symptoms of crystal meth addiction can include high blood pressure, increased heart rate, blood vessel constriction, and high blood glucose. Too much meth at one time can result in kidney failure, brain damage, and muscle atrophy. An overdose can even result in heart attack, stroke, and death.
Symptoms of Drug Abuse
Some symptoms of drug abuse are specific to the type of substance abuse, but some are more general and more universal to all substance abuse. Parents who pay close attention can usually tell when something is wrong, although they might not suspect drug abuse – at least, not at first. I think some parents just don’t want to entertain the possibility that their children might be “doing drugs.” After these parents exhaust every other possibility, they might eventually admit to themselves that drugs could be involved.
Some parents are simply too naïve, and I’ve seen this time and time again. I remember when one of my summer school students was caught at school with crack, and his parents were in complete denial. His mom told me that she couldn’t believe her son would do such a thing, saying, “Why, he just recently wrote a research paper about drug abuse!” I wanted to say that perhaps he was writing from personal experience, but I didn’t.
Below are some common signs of drug abuse:
- Change in personality
- Excessive sleep
- Suppressed appetite
- Short periods of increased appetite
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Distance from family and old friends
- An extreme need for privacy
- Falling grades
- Lack of ambition
- Teeth grinding
- Anxiety attacks
- Lack of motivation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle spasms
- Frequent headaches
As I’ve already mentioned, and as you surely already know, drug testing is done randomly and periodically on employees at many businesses and government offices. What you might not know, however, is that drug testing is also sometimes done in schools. I’ve seen several drug tests given to suspected students in our high school. In fact, one of my favorite students was expelled after failing a urine test.
There are several types of drug tests. These include analyses of urine, blood, hair, sweat, or saliva. The most common drug tests are done via urine, and these are the easiest to “cheat.” Those with substance abuse problems sometimes obtain drug-free urine from family members or friends. They sometimes place it in a small bottle and keep it near their body to keep it warm. Sometimes they might wrap the bottle of urine in a hand-warmer. There are also substances that can be taken to mask the results. These can be used if the user knows in advance about upcoming drug tests.
Home Drug Test
Some parents use a home drug test on their teenage children when they suspect drug abuse. A home drug test is also frequently used when a teen is recovering from substance abuse, as a way to monitor his progress. A home drug test is fairly inexpensive, and some are very accurate.
Keep in mind, however, there are some negative repercussions from using a home drug test on your teenager. If the child is innocent, your drug testing can result in broken trust. The young person might feel that his personal privacy has been unfairly violated. On the other hand, if you’re pretty sure that your child is using illegal substances, you need to find out for sure. That way, you can get him or her some much needed help.
Rehabs are not fun for anyone, but they’re often necessary to end drug abuse and to allow the user to lead a normal life. I’ve had family members and friends who have spent time in rehabs, and they shared their experiences with me. Obviously, a drug rehab center removes the user from his current situation. He can’t obtain drugs in the center. He’s also separated from peer pressure and from the “wrong crowd.”
A typical day in most rehabs includes group sessions, individual counseling, lectures, meals, snacks, and breaks. Some rehabs use specific therapies like art, family therapy, and role playing. Skills that involve coping, communication, and work might be included, too. During free time, patients might have the opportunity to engage is sports, games, arts and crafts, and other activities.
Good rehabs aren’t cheap, and that includes the ones for drug abuse in teens, but your health insurance provider might cover most of the costs. This depends, of course, on your specific policy and the type of treatment you seek. It might also depend on other methods that have already been tried but failed. If you don’t have health insurance, or if your health insurance provider doesn’t cover drug rehabilitation, the facility might be willing to work with you. Some centers offer payment plans. Drug rehab centers are the best way to combat drug abuse and addiction. It’s extremely difficult and often impossible to tackle such a huge problem without professional help and guidance. If drug abuse in teens has hit home with you and your family, seek help as soon as possible.