“Legal” drug abuse in teens is on the rise. They’re finding ways to get high that, despite being legal, pose risks greater than those of illegal drugs.

Most of us can probably list many of the major controlled substances and other intoxicants that are legally regulated. We know that various of these substances have surged in popularity at different times (LSD in the 60’s, cocaine in the 80’s, and methamphetamines in the 90’s and 00’s) and that both alcohol and marijuana have been widely abused by young people for decades. But while parents, teachers, and law enforcement officers focus their attention on illegal drugs and alcohol,”legal” drug abuse in teens is on the rise. They’re finding ways to get high that, despite being legal, pose risks greater than those of illegal drugs. They may use any of a number of items easily and (with the exception of prescription drugs) legally acquired in the household, from friends, or at the local convenience store to get high.
Since thousands upon thousands of everyday substances can, in adequate dosages, cause an altered mental, emotional, or physical state, it’s impossible to catalog all of them. It’s also impossible for parents or law enforcement to entirely stay ahead of, monitor, or regulate the use of these dangerous alternatives to illegal drugs and alcohol. Nonetheless, parents and others concerned with the safety of young people do well to understand trends in the use of legal and easily accessed intoxicants. Information can help parents and others detect dangerous substance abuse and, just as importantly, engage their teen with accurate information and informed concern.


Following is a list of intoxicating household items often used for drug abuse in teens as a substitute or complement to illegal drugs or alcohol. This is by no means a comprehensive list and should be viewed only as a set of examples of the thousands of items teens may use to get high.
INHALANTS: “Huffing” involves the inhalation of noxious household substances. Glue or paint or other chemicals may be placed by in a baggie which is then placed over the mouth and breathed from. Near-empty whipped cream canisters or other aerosol products may be inhaled directly or by using a baggie. Other items, such as permanent markers gasoline or nail polish, may be sniffed to the point of intoxication as well. All of these substances are poisons that can cause brain damage, organ failure, and death.
YOUR PRESCRIPTION: Teens may use their parent’s or friend’s prescription medications, either with or without regard to its intended use. Teen abusers typically take higher than prescribed doses of the medication and in a manner that speeds its entry into the bloodstream. Taking prescription medications in this way can cause serious overdose or drug interaction issues as well as risk of dependence.
MY PRESCRIPTION: Many teens learn to use their prescribed medications (especially psychoactive medications) in a manner inconsistent with their physician’s instructions. Often this involves cheeking medication so that it may be saved up over time and taken in a larger than the prescribed dose. Teen abusers of prescribed medication may also take their medication in a manner that speeds its delivery to the bloodstream, such as smoking it or chopping it into a fine powder and snorting it. This can make an otherwise safe medication addictive, toxic, and deadly.
PLANT SUBSTANCES: Nutmeg, mace, and other common spices and food items may also be consumed (drunk as a tea, smoked, eaten, or snorted) in quantities that cause an intoxicating effect. Certain types of wild lettuce, the seeds of morning glory plants, and many other common floras are also used by teens to get high. Most of these substances can create dangerous or deadly toxicity when consumed in the wrong quantity.
DMX: Cold medicines with dextromethorphan hydrobromide (DMX) have surged in popularity as a preferred intoxicant among American teens. Overdosing on these medications can lead to addiction, psychotic reactions, and death.
“Legal” drug abuse in teens is on the rise. Teens are finding ways to get high that, despite being legal, can still be destructive.  If you’re teen struggles with “legal” drug abuse, please contact us.  We can help.