Drug Rehabilitation Blog

Abused Drugs Among Teens

Parents Should Know About These Abused Drugs Among Teens

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug abuse among youngsters remains a problem across the country. Statistics indicate that the abuse may begin in children as young as 12. Parents need to be able to recognize the symptoms of abused drugs among teens to know if your teen is abusing a substance you may not be familiar with.

The Most Commonly Abused Drugs Among Teens

The most commonly abused drugs among teens and the prevalence of use include:

  • Marijuana-36%
  • Synthetic marijuana-11%
  • Adderall and other medications used in the treatment of ADHD and hyperactivity-7%
  • Vicodin-5%
  • Over-the-Counter cough medicines-5%
  • Tranquilizers-5%
  • Sedatives-5%
  • Hallucinogens-5%
  • Ecstasy or MDMA-4%
  • Oxycontin-4%
  • Salvia-3%
  • Cocaine/crack-3%
  • Inhalants-3%

During 2013, the number of abused drugs among teens rose compared to the previous five years. Among 8th graders, 7% admitted to drug use. Among 10th graders, 18% claimed drug use, and among 12th graders, 23% claimed to use drugs on a recreational basis.


Of the abused drugs among teens, marijuana is at the top of the list. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the active chemical substance in marijuana that produces the desired high sought after by the drug’s users. The flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds are commonly fashioned into cigarettes or put in pipes and smoked. Users also may mix the tobacco in food or beverages. Different processes extract the plant resin or liquid oil known as hashish.

THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain that regulate the cognitive, concentration, memory, pleasure centers and physical coordination. When used in young people, studies indicate that the drug affects brain development. Imaging studies revealed that the brains of young marijuana users demonstrated reduced connectivity in the area that governs active learning and memory. Teens may also experience a reduction in IQ. These effects do not reverse if the person stops using the drug.

Various studies also correlate chronic use with different mental illnesses that include anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations. Youngsters may lose the urge to participate in activities once deemed rewarding or enjoyable. High dosages may cause hallucinations, paranoia, and psychotic behavior. Effects also depend on genetics, the severity of drug use, the age of abuse and the drug potency. The younger children started using the drug, the higher the likelihood of developing problems.

Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice,  consists of an herbal concoction laced with synthetic chemical compounds that resemble THC. Other common names include fake weed, Moon Rocks, and Skunk along with Yucatan Fire. Until 2012, the substance was obtained legally, and many believed that spice was safer than marijuana. Fans of the synthetic compound found the product at gas station mini-marts, head shops or online. The Drug Enforcement Administration identified five chemicals often used to create the substance and deemed these substances illegal. However, manufacturers find ways around regulations by continually changing the recipe and introducing new chemical compounds.

Synthetic marijuana is most popular among high school students, and surveys indicate that among school populations, twice as many boys use the products compared to girls. In addition to believing the chemical compound is harmless and “natural,” the chemicals used to create the products are also not readily detected in standardized drug tests.

The drug grew in popularity for the effects that are reported as similar to the high experienced when using marijuana. Users detail feeling relaxed, elation and sometimes have alterations in perception that might include hallucinations. When abusing the drug, youngsters may also suffer anxiety or paranoia. Side effects are also often more intense than those produced by marijuana.

Bath Salts

The array of chemicals used in creating bath salts may also produce life-threatening effects. In 2010, emergency room and poison control centers across the country reported that more than 12,000 people were treated after using the artificial substances. Patients suffered from a variety of symptoms that included:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Hypertension
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Tachycardia
  • Heart attacks
  • Addiction and withdrawal symptoms with chronic use


Acquired only through prescription, Adderall and similar medications increase dopamine levels in the brain. This neurotransmitter helps regulate attention, physical movement, and the pleasure center. Individuals abuse the drug to improve wakefulness, decrease appetite to lose weight or to sharpen focus and concentration during study periods. Users may take the medication orally or crush the pills and snort the powder. Some also mix the crushed tablets with water and inject the substance. Dangers of using these stimulants include increased body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, which may lead to heart attack or stroke.

Symptoms of Drug Abuse

Depending on the substance of choice, users may exhibit a wide range of symptoms that include anything from lethargy to unusual hyperactivity. Signs of chronic abuse often involve many different behavioral changes. Family members may notice that prescription medications are missing. Desperate for a fix, abusers may resort to stealing from family and friends or engage in other criminal activity. Social activities that once provided enjoyment are now avoided. School and work are no longer priorities. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggested that in 2007, more than 23 million drug users aged 12 and older needed treatment. However, only little more than 2 million received help.


  • Diane C

    It’s amazing to me how much younger kids are starting to abuse drugs. I remember when I was that age, I never even considered doing drugs. That’s how prevalent they have become in society and in our families that the kids think it’s cool or a good thing to do. Knowing what drugs are out there and their effects on the person taking them will make it easier to spot if your kid has started using so you can get them into a good rehab facility as soon as possible.

  • Walter

    I have heard of or seen most of these drugs, except the bath salts as these were after my time. I can definitely vouch for the fact that they are extremely popular among kids, and there are countless excuses that are made as to why they are used and consumed. These are all full of garbage as the end result is the same. A person who is on drugs who has an impairment in some way and this is getting them to avoid something in their life that they do not want to face. I can say that there are definite signs to look for as well as getting them spotted and handled early in the running. If you see or think that your kid may be using I think it would be wise to observe for things that would be indicators, or to ask them about it as it could spiral out of control and turn into a serious problem. I also think that there would be some things that the kid should read in this article. Aside from me thinking that the consumption of “bath salts” is completely nuts!

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