Tracking With Teens: Three Dangerous Drug Trends

If you are above the age of 40, drug use when you were a teenager was...well, easy to understand. While serious drug addiction occurs in every generation, there was a time when it was at least a fairly small battleground. Drugs of abuse were limited to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and a few hallucinogens. Serious consequences and death occurred through the use of these drugs. However, today's drug use battleground is so large, and the battles so deadly, that you may just need to put a seat belt on before reading what teens are using to get high today. Here are just three trends occurring in teen culture today.


This isn't the marijuana that was available to you or to your parents' generation. The options for teens who want to use marijuana these days take the drug to a whole new level.

  1. "Wax,""budder,""BHO," "honey"--these are terms referring to cooking marijuana with butane in order to extract its oils. An extremely dangerous process, extraction can result in explosions because of the flammability of butane. The purity of the marijuana in oil form is alarmingly high; while street grade marijuana usually includes about 15-20% THC, oil can be 90% pure. The oil is smoked as a liquid in a bowl or soaked into a marijuana joint. The effects for the user are dramatically stronger than smoking the plant form. Some users experience hallucinations. Note that in states where marijuana is legal, BHO is sold over the counter for those who want to "vape" their marijuana experience.

  2. Synthetic cannabinoids are also getting teens' attention. The first kind, often called "Cloud 9," "Relax," or "Crown," is a liquid called more properly Ab-Pinaca or Ab-Fubinaca. Smoked through vaporizing devices, its dramatic effects include hallucinations, dangerously high heartbeat, and aggressive behavior. A second type, often called "K2," "Mojo," "Scooby Snax," or "Spice" is even more dangerous. A mod-podge of any number of synthetic ingredients, spice can cause upsetting mental effects such as agitation, hallucinations, paranoia, psychotic episodes, and suicidal thoughts. Its physical effects include high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, nausea, muscle tremors, and seizures. Many users have experienced life-threatening, even fatal results. Lawmakers are scrambling to enact legislation outlawing these substances, which many teens perceive as safe because they are associated with marijuana.

Although marijuana may be used differently than it was a generation ago, it is still highly popular; in fact, these forms of the drug remain the most frequently abused substances among teens.


This kind of candy isn't the type sold in your local convenience store. "Skittling" refers to the trend in which teens bring handfuls of prescription medications, taken from their parents' medicine cabinets, to what are often called "pharm parties." The pills are tossed into a big bowl. Partiers then grab some pills and ingest them, with no knowledge of what the pills are or what effects they may cause. Often teens wash down the pills with alcohol. The potential for overdose and dangerous drug interactions is obvious.

"Skittling" can also refer to the use of Coricidin HBP, which contains the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. It gets its nickname from its bright, candy-like appearance. In high doses it can cause hallucinations, respiratory depression, seizures, and even coma.

Caffeine powder

Caffeine powder differs from these other substances in that it is not ingested to get high, but rather to enhance sports abilities, academic performance, or lose weight. Sold over the internet in bulk, this powder is highly toxic: just one teaspoon contains caffeine equivalent to 25 cups of coffee. Teens may not be aware of the incredible potency of this powder, accustomed as they may be to putting large scoops of many supplements into their smoothies. Caffeine in high doses can cause cardiac arrhythmia, vomiting, and disorientation. Last year 30 cases of caffeine powder overdoses were reported to the National Poison Data System, and one teen in Ohio died of cardiac arrest after ingesting the substance.

These are just three drug trends among teens that you may not be aware of today. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) maintains a website that tracks drug use trends and contains additional valuable information.

Keeping up with teen drug trends may make your head spin, but knowledge truly is power because it allows for intervention. You may not understand what your teen is using, but you can recognize there is a problem. If you suspect that your teen is using drugs, obtain professional help. Chemical dependency counselors are the experts on what teens are using and the potential of those drugs for abuse and addiction. Drug dependency is the same across generations, though the drugs themselves may differ. 

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