The Types of Drugs Teenagers Use

Club drugs are used for enhancing the experience of lights, colors, sounds, and connecting with other people.
Club drugs are used for enhancing the experience of lights, colors, sounds, and connecting with other people. | Source

Good News and Bad News About Teen Drug Use

I was fifteen years old when my parents enrolled me in drug rehab. Although I wasn't yet addicted to any drugs, they feared I might be, and I'm glad they did. Over the course of a month, I spent sixteen hours a week listening to alcoholics and addicts much older than I was (many of them had kids my own age!) talking about how they first started using and the effects of drugs and alcohol had in their lives. Talk about scared straight! The stories they told were exactly what I was doing: an occasional drink, a hit of two of speed, toking on a joint of marijuana on my way home after school.

As a parent, I have watched and worried about my teens' exposure to drugs. I've struggled with knowing how much to interfere and how much to step back and let them learn for themselves - a difficult challenge for any parent! In order to determine what needs to be done, a parent must first recognize the risks facing their child.

Recent years have seen a change in teen attitudes toward certain types of drugs. Fewer teens smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol than at any other point since the Monitoring the Future (MTF) surveys started in the 1970s, and cocaine and hallucinogen use has decreased. MTF is an annual survey that asks eighth graders and high school seniors, sophomores, and eighth graders about their experiences with and attitudes toward various drugs.

The most recent MTF study results released in December, 2011, show that marijuana use is rising. Nearly half of all 8th graders say it's easy to get, and 10% of them have used it within the 30 days before the survey was administered. Nearly half of all high school seniors had used it within the same period!

More than 40% of all high school seniors reported that they had abused an illicit drug other than marijuana during the year. Let's take a look at other drugs teenagers most commonly abuse.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug abuse has risen at an alarming rate. The National Survey on Drug Use and Healthreveals that about 1/3 of all people aged 12 and over who used drugs illegally started by taking a prescription medication that wasn't intended for them.

Teens report they obtain Oxycontin, Vicodin, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and narcotics from friends or family members. Almost any drug that's prescribed for sleep, anxiety, or pain relief is a likely target among teens. Ritalin and Adderall are also commonly abused.

If you have discovered pills in your child's possession and don't know what kind of tablet or capsule it is, visit to use a simple tool that will help you identify it by color, shape, and markings.

I've also written a brief guide on recognizing prescription pill addiction you may find helpful.

These books discuss prescription drug addiction, what you can do about it, and provide answers to gut-wrenching questions about whether you've done something wrong:

Ecstasy is brightly colored, like candy, and may have appealing imprints.
Ecstasy is brightly colored, like candy, and may have appealing imprints. | Source
Ketamine is a veterinary tranquilizer. Like GHB and rohypnol, it is a colorless liquid that is easily disguised as plain water.
Ketamine is a veterinary tranquilizer. Like GHB and rohypnol, it is a colorless liquid that is easily disguised as plain water. | Source

Club Drugs

Ecstasy, meth, GHB, rohypnol, and ketamine are examples of club drugs. These drugs, once known as designer drugs, produce profound effects on the brain and in some cases can result in instant death.

Use of these drugs continues to rise. Fortunately, only about one percent of eighth graders and two percent of high school seniors has reported using the drug. Part of the reason for low reporting may be that these drugs are that they're most often used at social events like concerts, parties, and "raves." Rohypnol and GHB have been used to facilitate rapes because they incapacitate the user and interfere with her memory of events.

For more information on club drugs, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse's InfoFacts page or read in depth from one of these sources:

Teens Abuse Alcohol Most

Club drugs and prescription pills are frequently abused by teens, but other drugs could still find their way into your child's life. Hallucinogens like LSD, narcotics like heroin or morphine, and stimulants such as cocaine are less prevalent than they have been in past generations, but if your teen crosses paths with these drugs, their risk is just as high as it ever was.

Alcohol also presents a major risk to teens, and it remains the most commonly abused chemical among high school aged children. It's easy to get. There is less disapproval over using it. Yet more Americans are addicted to it than to all of the other drugs combined. Addiction sneaks up on users, but it leaves its mark by disrupting relationships and performance. If your child is using alcohol, it is no more innocent than using street drugs. Studies have shown that the younger a person is at the time they first start drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to become addicted to it.

If your child has been using alcohol, please consider seeking treatment just the same way you would if you discovered him or her using ecstasy or marijuana.

A Final Word About Teen Drug Use

Parents and educators should be alert to any signs of drug use. Even though certain drugs are declining in popularity, they haven't gone away. New drugs continue to present themselves, some legally, and have unknown effects. Synthetic marijuana, for example, is legal in some places and banned in others. Because they are new, surveys don't ask about whether teens have used them. Finally, all teenagers - including the straight A students who play extracurricular sports, take part in choir, and attend church every weekend - are still prone to experimentation. Experimentation might sound harmless, but nobody can predict which incident will lead to harmful effects or tragedy.

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Comments 30 comments

jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

To the person who posted a comment on Sept. 22: I deleted your post and will delete any future posts that promote or advocate drug use, which includes posting anything under the username that you posted your comment with. It's a violation of Hubpages terms of service.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, Tinsky! Yes, I would have to agree that Internet and games are addictive, but I'm afraid I don't have much experience with behavior addictions and am not qualified to write about them.

Tinsky profile image

Tinsky 4 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

Prescription Drugs are the most easiest for teenagers or other family members to obtain if you don't keep them locked up and away from sight. As a young child myself, I took a liking to headache powders called Vex and Bex which were kept unlocked in an overhead cabinet. I don't think I ever got 'high' off these products, I just liked the taste, however I believe both were taken off the Aussie market sometime in the late 80's or 90's. One of my brother's on the hand, had a huge addiction to chocolate. We found out during the night who had eaten the chocolate laxatives in the fridge. I think the best things parents can do, is to educate and put their own personal prescriptions and medicines out of reach and locked. Great Article, though one Drug addiction I'd like to see added, is the addiction to the Internet and Games. It also increases dopamine levels and has similar effects to consuming illegal drugs and has caused more deaths than marijuana.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Yes, that's true, although that would be an entire book of information!

safiq ali patel profile image

safiq ali patel 4 years ago from United States Of America

Teen agers take the blame for drugs. But some human beings have been taking drugs for centuries.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

You're welcome, LauraG. I had heard about it for a long time, but it didn't really exist when I was counseling, so I had to go find photos of it. I was also surprised by the way it looked.

LauraGSpeaks profile image

LauraGSpeaks 4 years ago from Raleigh, NC

Thanks for this informative hub. Seeing the picture of ecstasy is helpful--I had no idea it looks so much like a sweet tart or other candy.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Wow, that must have been rough on your family, Penelope! I hope that your sons will never give up control of their own lives by getting into abusing drugs or alcohol. That was smart of you to get them into rehab.

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

This is extremely helpful to parents and to their children: those are some pretty nasty drugs. Alcohol is always the constant though, isn't it? Such a bummer.

My sons both went to a rehab when they were teenagers to learn about alcohol and cocaine abuse. It was very useful to them when their dad took his life (because of it). They learned he was an addict and that addicts are out of control, not that he abandoned them on purpose. But these are the tragic stories around drugs and alcohol that we already all know. Stopping it is tough.

Your Hub might help. That would be very good. Voting.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Ah, wilderness, you've hit upon an important point, too. If the parents are doing drugs, then the kids have no reason at all to avoid them, even if they've been very angry at the parents' use! That's a tragedy, in my opinion.

wilderness profile image

wilderness 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

I wish the WWW and your hub had been around when my kids were young; it might have a good deal of grief.

It is absolutely imperative that parents keep kids away from even "experimenting" but with so many using themselves it's a little impractical. It's not just the kids that don't understand the damage illicit drugs do, it's often the parents as well.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Sigh... That's so true! I can remember being like that, too, and with a teen still at home, I see it from her as well. I wish we had more programs that placed teens in with adults in treatment where they could discover that the adults in bad shape from their own usage started out the same exact way.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK

I work with teens and they are very flippant about alcohol and drug abuse, despite a great deal of information about the dangers both from the school and outside agencies. I suppose you always think that you are invincible when you are young. Sadly, many find out that they are not.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

I'm sorry to hear that michememe. That's an unfortunate reality too often. It sounds like you've done the right thing, though. You have to protect yourself, your family, and your home when drug use threatens them.

michememe profile image

michememe 4 years ago

I enjoyed reading this. I witness signs of my son usage of drugs when he was 16. I intervened immediately, he tried to make excuses it's not this it's not that. However, I grew up around addicts and drinkers, I know what these things look like. Heck, I even tried weed when I was 18 didn't like the way it made me feel. It was cleaned after I got him help, however, when he turned 18 he started up again. He begin smoking weed. He's out my home now, because he couldn't adhere to my rules.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

That had to have been rough on you, Susan! Even though hallucinogen use has decreased, that still means some kids are using it. I am sorry your family went through that experience and I hope your son is on a better path these days.

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Very informative and helpful hub. My son at one time was smoking weed laced with Salvia and I won't go into it but the end result was a two week stay in the hospital.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Yes, I moved to KC a few years ago from a smaller town in central MO, and it was a big problem there, too. It has been a while since I read specific rankings of locations, but MO was very high on the list.

Vampsdes profile image

Vampsdes 4 years ago from Missouri, US

Yeah I sure am, southwest Missouri. A small town, but it's a big problem everywhere. You're in KC huh? Wow it's a small world! Then you know exactly what I'm talking about!

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Are you in the midwestern U.S.? Meth is a big problem here, too (Kansas City).

Vampsdes profile image

Vampsdes 4 years ago from Missouri, US

This is very interesting information. Meth and prescription pills are big in this area as well. Though I live in a small town, it's still easy to get a hold of it all according to the kids here. We are considered one of the highest concentrated areas of meth labs in the country, or at least we were not all that long ago. Incredibly sad, but true.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you both! Denise, I would have thought Ecstasy was candy if I'd seen some lying on a table!

denisemai profile image

denisemai 4 years ago from Idaho

I must admit, your photo is the first time I've ever seen ecstacy. I'm not very familiar with drugs. This was very informative and as a mother of two teens, I need to be better acquainted with drugs they may be exposed to. Great job!

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

This is a very informational hub. I didn't know there were so many of them. No idea especially about the club drugs. Drug abuse is a universal phenomenon and affects not only the individual but all those connected with him. Glad you shared this vital info.

Voted up, useful and interesting. Shared too.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, everyone! Thank you for adding your link, too, Michelle.

You must have developed a wonderful relationship that makes your daughter feel deeply cherished, sholland. It's clear she trusts you a great deal.

Tammy, once again, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

This is valuable information for parents. It isn't something we want to research, but need to know. Well done and helpful!

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Great information for parents and people who work with our youth. I know meth is big in our area, but as a high school teacher, I do not see the signs of use as much as I used to. I hope that is the trend. My daughter is just finishing her first year of college. She says she sees more alcohol than drugs at parties. She has asthma so she leaves if there is smoking, especially pot. I am glad I can talk to her about things like drugs. Great hub! Votes and shared!

michelle s 4 years ago

This is very sad but true. I was addicted to prescription drugs for over 12 years. It wasn't until my family had stepped in and made me see what road I was traveling down- I got the help I needed. I am now 5 years clean and volunteer at a treatment center a few days a week trying to help others who are where I once was. Anyone can turn their lives around, it is never too late.

jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, Pamela. I'll be writing more on this topic very soon.

Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

This is really good information. The parents are often the last to figure out their child is in need of help. Teenagers of all ages can start taking a drug so naively -- thinking they will just try it once or twice -- and then liking the temporary euphoria that they try it again. I think young teenagers and teens of all ages need to really hear over and over from their parents that they are loved no matter what. Lines of communication have to be open, hugs have to be given often -- and love has to be part of the equation in order for real recovery to happen. That's so great that your parents got right to a solution for you before things got bad.

Great hub. Voting up and Sharing.

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