Categories: Addiction

The 5 most commonly abused drugs by teens

One of the major concerns in America at the moment is drug use among young people.

It is not uncommon for people who use drugs or drink heavily when they are young to eventually turn into addicts.

Drugs like cocaine and even marijuana and nicotine affect the brain’s natural function.

The drug overwhelms the brain with a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine makes the brain and body feel pleasure. When the drug wears off, the dopamine drains out of the user’s system. This makes a person feel that the only way they can feel pleasure is by taking drugs. The chemical overload also causes brain cells to shut down and die. This is just one adverse physiological effect of drugs.

Imagine being 15 years old again. Your brain and body are in a crucial stage of development. Not only do you feel awkward physically, you are learning about life and probably changing your ideas about how the world works. You’re just entering high school. You are meeting kids you didn’t know before, social statuses are changing all around you, and relations with the opposite sex have become very complicated.

In this scenario, let’s say all the “cool kids” are taking drugs. Maybe they are smoking cigarettes or pot, or drinking alcohol under the bleachers or in their garage. You start drinking and taking drugs with them to fit in.

Many times the teen in this scenario becomes wired to believe that drugs are the only way they can handle interpersonal relationships. Maybe they grow up thinking they can only dance with someone else if they are drunk or they can only talk to a girl if they are high. It can go even further. They might grow up believing that the only way they can handle stress is by taking opiates or the only way they can pull an all-nighter at school or work is to snort cocaine or abuse Ritalin.

This scenario is all too common in the present day. More and more kids are turning to drugs to sort out their problems for them. These drugs won’t do anything but become a crutch and a possible addiction, or worse.

What Drugs are Teenagers Using?

Use and addiction to synthetic drugs is rising at an alarming rate. Many of these dangerous substances are available for legal purchase through paraphernalia shops, even though Federal, State, and local governments are working hard to make it illegal for them to be made, sold, or purchased.

Between 2010 and 2011, the rate of synthetic drug-related emergency room visits increased by nearly 230 percent.

1. Alcohol

A survey done on kids in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades shows that alcohol has the highest usage rate across the boards.

Many adults don’t feel there’s any harm in letting kids drink at a younger than legal age.

However, research shows that kids who started drinking under the age of 15 are 4 times as likely to grow up to be alcoholics than those who started drinking at age 21.

Teens Who Drink Alcohol Are More Likely To Experience


  • Problems at school; failing grades
  • Problems among their peers; fighting or not participating in group activities
  • Legal troubles; offenses
  • A higher likelihood of illness
  • Promiscuity; unprotected sex
  • A disruption of their physical and mental growth
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Self-destructive or suicidal tendencies
  • Unintentional injuries to themselves or others
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Brain development issues that can affect them for the rest of their lives
  • Death by alcohol poisoning or accident
  • Traffic accidents and fatalities
  • Use of other drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine


A responsible adult in any child’s life can educate him or her about alcohol and why it is dangerous for young people to abuse.

The more a parent discusses drugs and alcohol with their kids and keeps their own, firm stance on the subject, the less likely their child is to drink or take drugs.

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2. Marijuana

Marijuana is the most used illegal drug in the world.

An American survey done in 2012 showed that 45% of 12th graders had tried pot in their life, and 36% of those kids had smoked it within the last year.

Facts About Marijuana


  • The active ingredient of cannabis is the chemical THC. This chemical can remain in body tissues for months or even years. It can also damage the user’s immune system.
  • Heavy marijuana use has been connected to brain abnormalities and brain damage.
  • Marijuana can get you high, but it can also make you feel depressed, paranoid, and psychotic.
  • Even small amounts of marijuana can cause infertility in men and women.
  • Marijuana smoke has 50%-70% more cancer-causing substances in it than regular cigarette smoke.
  • Young people using marijuana are more likely to start using harder drugs. In fact, over 99% of cocaine users used marijuana first.


In addition to all of this, there is a new kind of drug on the scene called synthetic marijuana.

This synthetic pot goes by the names K2, Spice, “plant food” and many other odd titles.

The chemicals which make up a standard batch of synthetic marijuana are illegal, but the drug pushers that create and sell it have found ways to modify the chemicals to get around the law.

This drug is even more dangerous than marijuana and has been connected to several teen deaths due to kidney failure.

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3. Tobacco

While we all know that smoking is illegal for anyone under 18, the rate of kids smoking keeps climbing.

Cigarettes have long been a symbol – at least in some circles – of what is “cool.”

The truth is that not only has smoking been proven to cause cancer and heart disease, it can also lead to harder drug use – particularly when a young person becomes a heavy smoker.

Facts About Tobacco


  • Those who start smoking as a child are 3 times more likely to use marijuana or cocaine than those who did not smoke when they were kids.
  • Over half of the youth who started smoking before age 15 went on to use illicit drugs in their life.
  • The earlier a person starts using tobacco, the more likely it is that they will become an addict later on in life.
  • High school aged youth who use chewing tobacco 20-30 days a month are about 4 times more likely to use marijuana and about 3 times more likely to use cocaine or inhalants than those who don’t chew tobacco.
  • Smokers are over 30% more likely to use alcohol, and 10 times more likely to abuse alcohol or become alcoholics than those who don’t smoke.


Keep your child educated about the dangers of any drug use – including tobacco.

It may seem like “everybody knows” that smoking is bad for you – but the rates of young people smoking are increasing while the rates of adults smoking are decreasing.

This means that the older generation is more educated on the topic of smoking than the younger generation. It’s our job to keep young people informed so they can make decisions with all the information.

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4. Prescription Drugs

A startling and urgent trend amongst our youth is the abuse of prescription drugs.

A survey showed that in 2012, about 21% of 12th graders had abused prescription drugs like Adderall, Ritalin, cough medicine, tranquilizers, amphetamines, Vicodin, OxyContin, and other painkillers.

One of the reasons behind this rise in prescription drug abuse is that young people perceive prescription drugs as “safe” because a doctor or pharmacy provided them. Street drugs are seen as something more risky to take as you don’t know what’s in them.

The truth is that prescription medication comes in many strengths and combinations.

A young person wanting to get high will often have no idea what the information regarding drug strength means, and they sure aren’t likely to study the side-effects.

Not only that, kids throw “punch bowl parties” where they take pills from a large bowl; they have no idea what they are taking, which is a potentially lethal mix of drugs.

Any medication or drug is dangerous to mix with another drug or with alcohol. Many prescription drugs are tailored to a specific person with specific needs. For example, opiates like Oxycodone or Codeine are usually prescribed because a person needs pain relief or they have a specific illness.

Both Oxycodone and Codeine are very addictive and very dangerous to mix with other drugs.

Educating young people on what prescription drugs really are, what their intended purpose is, and why it’s dangerous to abuse them is a vital step that is all too often missing. In our “pop a pill and feel better” society, it can seem safe if that pill comes from a doctor. But, if that pill isn’t specifically prescribed for the person taking it, it’s just as dangerous as any street drug.

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5. Hallucinogens

It may come as a surprise that hallucinogens like LSD or Ecstasy came in as number five on this list, but even though it’s no longer the 60’s, kids are still looking to trip.

Hallucinogens are especially dangerous for young people because they change how a person perceives his or her surroundings. They don’t just change someone’s mood; they markedly change a person’s personality. For a young person still developing his or her own opinions, feelings, and personality, hallucinogens can be particularly influential in a negative context. Factually, they distort reality and kill brain cells.

While LSD can give a person a feeling of euphoria or cause them to hallucinate, it can also create a “bad trip” – a feeling of intense terror, fear, and extreme worry about insanity or death which can last up to 12 hours.

Some people never recover from an acid-induced psychosis.

Gifted musician and songwriter Syd Barrett, founding member of Pink Floyd, left the band in 1968 due to mental illness brought on by excessive use of LSD.

He never recovered and rarely recorded or performed after that.

The “love drug” (ecstasy) can cause kids to make unwise decisions about sex while under the influence of the drug. It can lead to unprotected sex, to disease (STDs), and to unplanned pregnancy with an unknown partner.

Ecstasy also smothers natural alarm signals the body gives out.

Your body could be telling you that you are exhausted, dehydrated or overheated. Sometimes users of Ecstasy at raves or clubs die from over-exerting themselves.

One other important thing to know about ecstasy in particular is that what dealers pass off as “E” (the chemical MDMA) – while bad enough on its own – could actually contain some other drug such as cocaine, heroin, or toxic substances like rat poison.

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The Answers

Being honest with youth about the effects and dangers of drugs can help them make educated life choices.

It may seem hard or weird to talk to them about drugs, but kids ten-years-old and younger get offered drugs, and they certainly see drug use on TV, in movies, and on the internet.

Along with effective drug rehabilitation, education is the ultimate answer to the drug abuse problem we face today. Knowledge is the key to prevention.



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  • The raise in youth drug taking is astounding, especially with all the information on how drugs and alcohol effect a person and all the stories of drug overdoses and people that have been addicted to drugs and their difficulties. As a mom it is scary to think about my kid being in a situation of having to deal with friends using drugs or even getting to the point of him being addicted. I mean I can say, "not my kid" but the fact is it can be my kid. It is so important to have the difficult conversation with your child and give them the true data about drugs and alcohol. Give them a chance to make the difficult choice with the correct information.

  • It's funny, my granddaughter just turned 13 and I was thinking it's probably time to really start talking to her about drugs and alcohol seeing she is now a teenager. Never thinking that she had probably already been approached by her peers about taking something or having a drink. We have talked to her about drugs, but not real specifically. Looks like we have to do that now. Thanks for the information on what to do to educate the kids.

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