Teens have a history of trying risky behavior, partly because they are learning about life and trying to find their way in the world. Often times, this spreading of their wings is not harmful. Sometimes, however, teens get hooked on trends that are downright dangerous, or that will expose them to a world of risky behavior. Some of the latest risky teen behaviors take place with substances found in their own homes. The choices that teens make today can affect them for the rest of their lives.
The use and abuse of inhalants is one of the biggest growing trends among teens today. Teens inhale anything they can get their hands on, such as aerosol sprays (spray paint, air fresheners, deodorants), solvents (gasoline, glue, markers), and gases (propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers) and the list goes on and on. Immediate effects of this kind of substance abuse include slurred speech, nausea, lack of coordination, and irritability. More serious effects are brain damage, liver and kidney failure, heart damage, and potentially, “Sudden Sniffing Death” (SSD).
Over the Counter Drug Abuse
Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant found in many over the counter cold medications. When taken as directed, it works to sooth a cough. But many teens today are taking this medication and other over the counter medications (motion sickness pills, acetaminophen, and ephedrine) in large doses in order to get high. Immediate effects include euphoria, loss of coordination, hallucinations, and possibly seizure and brain damage. Overdose is a very possible effect.
Teens have also been getting away with taking their own family members’ prescription drugs, such as OxyContin, Valium, and Adderall. In many schools, officials are facing the problem of teens bringing stashes of these drugs to school to sell to their friends. Kids are also able to order prescription drugs at home from their family’s computer. A growing percentage of teens have experimented with prescription drugs.
Teens who start out with trying something fun and new with their friends because they are bored and unsupervised at home can quickly become addicted to the “high” they get. Teens that regularly abuse household substances are more likely to try harder drugs, in an attempt to get a better high, or to try something more dangerous and thrilling. Prescription drugs, inhalants, and over the counter medications have been dubbed “gateway drugs” because of the likelihood that they lead to more dangerous drug abuse.
Parents need to be vigilant about what their kids are doing and who they are hanging out with. If teens are left unsupervised, the temptation will be there to try these things. All of the kids are talking about it, and the internet and pop culture have a wealth of information (good and bad) for your teens. Parents need to educate themselves about these risks, and then educate their kids. Teens should know that they can go to their parents with questions or concerns they might have, and get reliable information.