Teens find new ways to get high

These days, adolescents are finding creative ways to get high. What once was alcohol or marijuana now is cough syrup and bath salts. Parents need to be aware of the dangers that sit right in their homes, according to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Expanding the market

That does not mean that other substances are undesirable. Teens and young adults are still using marijuana, cocaine, heroin and opioids at increasingly alarming rates. However, the menu has now expanded to include a few lesser-known options. Adolescents do not have to travel far to get what they are looking for.

These unusual candidates also have creative names, such as “K2” or “Spice” for synthetic marijuana and “Ivory Snow” for bath salts. Parents may not even know their child is using drugs because of these names.

Though some of these obscure drugs may fade out, others fill their places quickly, William Milchak, an addictions counselor at Penn State Hershey, noted.

Prevalence of teen drug use

The National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that in 2011, 11 percent of high school seniors used synthetic marijuana in the past year. Bath salts are less prevalent. Only .9 percent of seniors noted using bath salts in the past year. However, prescription drugs still hold a strong presence. In 2013, 15 percent of seniors used a prescription nonmedically in the past year.

There are a few suspicions for the culprits behind these trends. Some believe that social media and the Internet may have a role in it. Unlike the days of meeting a drug dealer on a quiet, lowly street corner, now teens do not even need to leave their house. They can obtain their high from a drugstore, a medicine cabinet or from an online seller.

How to tell if teens are using drugs

There are several signs that an adolescent is abusing drugs. Some of these indicators include odd sleep or appetite patterns, missing medication, a new group of friends and using mints or mouthwash more than usual. Yet, the Penn State experts warn not to be too overbearing – these also are signs of normal adolescent behavior.

The bottom line is for parents to trust their instincts. They know their child best, so if his or her behavior seems off, it could be an indication of drug use. If parents are suspicious, be safe and intervene instead of waiting. Helping children find the help they need is good.

Adolescents could be at greater risk if there is an addiction problem in the family. Studies show that people who have a genetic link to addiction are four to five times more likely to develop a habit themselves. Timing also plays a role. Teens who are introduced to drugs and other substances before the age of 21 have a higher risk of addiction than teens who wait.

Adolescents may get into drugs because of problems with depression, self-esteem or anxiety.

Parents who suspect their child is using drugs should contact a school counselor, an addiction treatment center or pediatrician immediately.

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