Teen Drug Abuse

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Teen drug abuse facts

  • There are many stages of drug abuse, ultimately leading to difficulty in managing one's life as a result of using drugs.
  • Individuals who begin using drugs as juveniles are at greater risk of becoming addicted compared to those who begin drug use as an adult due to the immaturity of the teenage brain, particularly of that part of the brain that controls impulses.
  • The symptoms of drug abuse include tolerance to a substance, withdrawal episodes, using more drugs for longer periods of time, and problems managing life issues due to the use of a drug.
  • Substance abuse is caused by a number of individual, family, genetic, and social factors rather than by any one cause.
  • Although a number of genes play a role in the development of substance abuse, this is a disease in which other factors more strongly influence its occurrence.
  • Substance-abuse treatment is usually treated based on the stage of the addiction, ranging from management of risk factors and education to intensive residential treatment followed by long-term outpatient care and support.

What drugs are abused by teenagers?

Virtually every drug that is abused by adults is also abused by adolescents. In addition to alcohol, common categories of drugs of abuse include the following:

  • Tobacco products (for example, cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco)
  • Cannabinoids (for example, marijuana, hashish), sometimes called "pot, weed, Mary Jane, or herb" and is smoked in a "joint," "blunt," "bong," "backwood," or pipe
  • Cold medications (for example, chlorpheniramine and pseudoephedrine [Sudafed], diphenhydramine [Benadryl]
  • Inhalants (for example, gasoline, ammonia), the use of which is often referred to as "huffing"
  • Depressants (for example, barbiturates, benzodiazepines), sometimes called "reds, yellows, yellow jackets, downers or roofies"
  • Stimulants (for example, amphetamines, cocaine, methamphetamine), sometimes called "bennies, black beauties, speed, uppers, blow, crack, rock, toot, crank, crystal, or skippy"
  • Narcotics (for example, morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone [Oxycontin], hydrocodone/acetaminophen [Vicodin], sometimes called cody, schoolboy, dope, Tango and Cash, or monkey"
  • Hallucinogens (for example LSD, "mushrooms"), sometimes called "acid, yellow sunshines, buttons, or shrooms"
  • Dissociative anesthetics (for example, phencyclidine/PCP, ketamine), sometimes called "lovely, boat, Love Boat, angel dust, K, vitamin K, or cat" and whose use is often referred to as "getting wet"
  • Club drugs (for example, Ecstasy), sometimes called "X"
  • Others (for example, anabolic steroids), sometimes called "juice or roids"
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/9/2014

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Learn about prescription drug abuse in teens.

Prescription Drug Abuse, an Alarming Trend

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, PhD

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2006, 16.2 million Americans aged 12 and older had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant, or sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Up to 7 million people, or 2.8% of the U.S. population age 12 or older, had used prescription medications for nonmedical purposes in the month prior to the survey.

Although any type of medication has the potential to be abused, certain groups of prescription drugs are most commonly abused.

Painkillers: Opioids such as codeineand morphine are narcotics prescribed to treat pain. Other drugs in this class include oxycodone(OxyContin), hydrocodone(Vicodin), meperidine(Demerol), hydromorphone(Dilaudid), and propoxyphene(Darvon).

CNS depressants: Drugs in the benzodiazepine class are central nervous system (CNS) depressants used to treat anxietydisorders and sometimes for the short-term treatment of insomnia. Examples include alprazolam(Xanax), diazepam(Valium), and triazolam(Halcion).


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