Many items easily accessed in most households or legally acquired online, at convenience stores, or in head shops, are now used by adolescents and young adults seeking a replacement for or complement to illegal drug or alcohol use.  This is because these household items and so-called “designer drugs” are often easier to gain access to and/or use undetected.  Although the legal risks of using these household items and designer drugs are lower, the health risks should be considered equal to or greater than those of illegal teen drug abuse.
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 teen drug abuse 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.
Designer drugs are so called because they are designed to get around legal regulation.  These substances are typically made from intoxicating compounds that are not currently illegal, but that mimic the effects of other more commonly known drugs.  The products are deceptively labeled and marketed for purposes other than their intended purpose as an intoxicant. These products are often available at convenience stores, online, or at head shops; adolescents learn about their actual intended use by word of mouth and the internet.  Though regulatory bodies have begun the process of regulating certain of these substances, drug designers continue to invent new products to keep ahead of the regulatory process.

Cocaine/Methamphetamine Imitators

Available at convenience stores primarily, many adolescents are purchasing and abusing products that are deceptively labeled as “bath salts” but are actually designer drugs that mimic the chemical composition and intoxicating effects of cocaine and/or methamphetamines.  These items are sold under such names as Ivory Wave, Blue Silk, White Lightening, and Ocean Burst. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, more than 232 calls regarding bath salt abuse were reported in 2010. Two recent suicides in Florida are blamed on the ingestion of bath salts and E.R. rooms across the country report many cases of toxic ingestion.

Opiate-Like Intoxicants

Kratom is a plant leaf from Thailand and Malaysia that is legal and can be purchased online, in convenience stores, and at head shops.  It can be smoked, eaten, drunk as a tea, or consumed in capsule form to produce an opiate-like effect.  While viewed by some as safer than some designer drugs, there are reported cases of opiate-like addiction.

Synthetic Cannabinoids

There are several legal, easily acquired substances that are laced with synthetic cannabinoids, or cannabis-simulating compounds, and are either sold as incense or a tobacco substitute. Experts warn that because of a lack of study, there may be unknown risks for users of these substances.  Early indications are that these substances may be addictive and psychosis-inducing.  There may also be unwanted or dangerous interactions with other medications.

Risks of “Designer Drugs”

Addiction, overdose, poisoning, brain and organ damage and death can result from the abuse of these items as intoxicants.  Unlike better-known, regulated substances, the health risks and dosage implications of these chemicals are not well understood, increasing the risk of overdosing, negative medication interactions, and other unintended consequences.  In addition, less treatment knowledge is available for these substances when their abuse escalates to addiction or overdose.

Teen Drug Abuse Treatment

It can be scary to find out your teenage daughter is struggling with drug abuse.  Sunrise Residential Treatment Center specializes in helping teen girls who struggle with substance abuse.  Please call us to find out more about how we can help your family.