A Guide for Parents: Understanding Street Drugs

Taking risks is something teenagers are determined to do no matter how much we try to warn them of the dangers.  They tend to act on impulse and emotions and are highly susceptible to peer pressure. We can only hope that they eventually develop decision-making skills that will keep them safe as they grow.  For parents, the challenge is to learn all they can about the various substances kids are abusing these days. Understanding street drugs is a good way to begin.

Impact of Drugs on Young People Today

It’s important for parents to remember that they do influence whether their child uses addictive substances.  Setting a good example, and taking an active role in your child’s life will help them form better attitudes about drugs and alcohol. Let’s take a look at the substances that are most frequently used by teens today.  This information might help in your understanding street drugs and give some hints about what to look for in your teen’s behavior if they are abusing these substances:


  • The most widely abused substance by teens and adults.
  • Damages the developing adolescent brain, especially the areas responsible for memory, emotions, and decision-making.  Also affects learning and problem-solving.
  • Can lead to mental health problems.
  • Teens are more likely to binge-drink and take risks.
  • Contributes to the three main causes of teenage death, suicide, homicide, and injury.
  • Teens who drink are more likely to have drinking problems later in life.

Street Drugs

  • Designer drugs such as synthetic cannabinoids (spice), synthetic cathinones (bath salts, flakka, ecstasy) and more have increased in popularity among high school students.  These drugs have sent more than 22,000 kids to the emergency room in recent years.  Some of the severe side effects of these substances include, but are not limited to, the following:
    • Delusions, detachment from reality, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, increased heart rate, seizures, suicidal thoughts.
  • Heroin abuse among teens has risen to 63% over the past ten years.  More than 21,000 teens sought heroin addiction treatment in one year alone.  The impact of heroin on a teen brain can include the following:
    • Poor decision-making abilities, inability to regulate behavior, and slowed response to challenging situations.
  • Ketamine has become increasingly popular among teens in recent years.  It is often used as a date-rape drug because of its tranquilizing effects.  About 74% of ER visits for ketamine-related problems were for teens and young adults.  Some of the effects of this drug include:
    • Respiration problems, slow heart-rate, lethargy, detachment from reality.
  • Cocaine (and crack) use among teens has declined somewhat, but it’s only being replaced by something else just as dangerous. Teens are often getting cocaine that has been laced with other hazardous chemicals such as caffeine, tranquilizers, fertilizer, meth, ketamine, and more.  The collective damages from these chemicals can cause the following:
    • Anxiety, aggressiveness, confusion, damaged nasal cavity, lung problems, inability to sleep, increased risk of embolisms and stroke, suicidal thoughts, heart attack.
  • Ice (crystal meth) is a deadly form of methamphetamine.  It is more lethal than crack and more addictive. It provides an intensive physical and mental exhilaration that can last from four to fourteen hours.  Some of the side-effects can include:
    • Depression, anxiety, fatigue, sleeplessness, psychosis, paranoia, lung damage, liver and kidney damage.

Many other street drugs are finding their way into the hands of our young people today. Drugs such as hallucinogens, LSD, meth, magic mushrooms and illegally obtained prescription drugs (opiates and benzodiazepines) are also popular among teens.  It’s enough to make a parent want to keep their child from ever leaving the house. But, that is not a viable solution, so educating our teens about the dangers of drugs and giving them the love and support they need is the best prevention method.

Does Your Teen Need Treatment for Street Drug Abuse?

To help you determine whether your teen needs professional treatment for drug abuse or addiction, here is a list of things to watch for when understanding street drugs:

Changes in behavior:  Missing school, poor academic performance, being defiant or uncooperative, a new group of friends, isolation, secretive behavior, unexplained disappearances, lack of interest in hygiene or activities that were once important, and lying or stealing.

Psychological changes:  Frequent mood swings, extreme highs and lows, poor motivation, memory problems, slurred speech, poor coordination, paranoia, drowsiness, and manipulative behavior.

Health problems:  Sleep problems, changes in appetite, headaches, sweating, nausea and vomiting, excessive thirst, weight loss or gain, poor coordination, shakes or tremors, nosebleeds, runny nose, and seizures.

Personal appearance:  Bloodshot eyes, poor hygiene, bruises, cuts and sores, constant scratching, burns on fingers or lips, track marks, wearing long sleeves, teeth clenching, poor coordination, and unusual odor on body or clothing.

Miscellaneous signs and symptoms:  Drug paraphernalia (needles, rolling papers, pipes, bottles, etc.), drug residue (seeds, stems, powder), missing medications, missing alcohol or cigarettes, missing cash or valuable items, and hidden stashes of alcohol or drugs.

Get More Information on Understanding Street Drugs

If you would like more information on understanding street drugs, or you believe your teen needs help for drug abuse or addiction, please contact us today.  We can help.

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