What are the Drugs that Every Parent Should Know About?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug abuse amongst youngsters remains a problem across the country. Statistics indicate that the abuse may begin in children as young as 12.
The Most Commonly Abused Drugs
The most commonly abused drugs and the prevalence of use include:
- Synthetic marijuana-11%
- Adderall and other medications used in the treatment of ADHD and hyperactivity-7%
- OTC cough medicines-5%
- Ecstasy or MDMA-4%
During 2013, drug use 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.
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 hash.
THC binds with cannabinoid receptors within 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, severity of drug use, age of abuse and the drug potency. The younger children started using the drug, the greater the likelihood for developing problems.
Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice, the substance 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 chemicals 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 easily 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.
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:
- 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 increase wakefulness, decrease appetite in order to lose weight or to sharpen focus and concentration during study. Users may take the drug orally or crush the pills and snort the powder. Some also mix the crushed pills 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, 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 actually received help.