Young Teens Flirting with Drug Abuse


In some ways, the drug seeking behaviors, even ineffectual ones, are a training ground for the same thing later on. So, when teens experiment with easily obtainable substances to get what most adult drug abusers would call a “low quality high” they are practicing behaviors that can only harm them later.

With this in mind, a recent article at Live Science tells of three ways young people test the waters, some while still in elementary school.

The first is with a commonly available substance – caffeine. So-called energy drinks as abused substances contain as much caffeine as a medium coffee, which seems safe. But chugging three or four in a row, combined with smaller body sizes, leads to jitters, altered perceptions and other effects that give little kids a sense of adventure and risk-taking. These aren’t restricted to adult purchase and can be consumed in high enough amounts to get an effect that mimics amphetamine use.

Second on the list is computer cleaning sprays. These cans of quick evaporating propellant are a modern version of glue sniffing. Called “dusting” because of a popular product name, users inhale the spray which, since it is heavier than air, pools in the lungs and starts to suffocate them. The effects – dizziness, heart irregularities, unconsciousness and death – don’t sound too appealing, but the point here is to alter one’s normal state. Dust-off, the most popular of these, contains 100% Difluoroethane. The MSDS is here.

The final experiment listed is also popular with older teens and adults. Called “pharm parties,” participants bring all the pills they can get their hands on, combine them into a kind of collage and invite party-goers to take a random handful. The pills can be everything from OTC cough and cold pills to narcotics swiped from the home medicine chest. One of the drivers for this kind of party is the unavailability of alcohol and the easy access teens have to home medications. Last year’s pain prescription is just there for the taking, no one misses it.

Whether further legislation or awareness is the solution, we can’t tell. Some advocate for more education for teens and others think we should allow them some room to experiment with less harmful substances, like alcohol, under supervised situations. There’s no easy answer. Some kids want to get high and will try almost anything.


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