NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Back to school means reading, writing and arithmetic for students across the country, but it could also mean peer pressure to try drugs. Your child may be exposed to some common and not-so common chemicals designed to get them high that don't appear -- or in some cases even qualify -- on a list of common teen experimentation drugs.
If you think your child is smart enough to avoid drugs entirely, you may simply be ducking the issue or engaging in wishful thinking.
According to the Forum on Child and Family Statistics, in 2011, 9% of 8th-graders, 19% of 10th-graders, and 25% of 12th-graders reported having used an illicit drug in the 30 days previous to the survey. That's one out of every four high school seniors.
Children aren’t just meeting a "weed" dealer in the parking lot anymore -- they may be getting these drugs from the Wal-Mart or from your home's cabinets. Here are eight illicit drugs and drug sources common among teens that parents should be on the lookout for:
1. Boozy Bears
Put the padlock on the alcohol cabinet, parents.
Children who want to party it up undetected are soaking harmless gummi bears in baking dishes of vodka or other similar booze and leaving them overnight. In the morning, the candy has soaked up the booze and parents and school officials are none the wiser.
Heather Sutton, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Drug Commission in Knoxville, Tenn., says “They are popular because they are odorless and discreet. Intoxication can occur quickly because teens may eat several gummies very rapidly with little knowledge as to how much alcohol they are ingesting.”
If your teen suddenly develops a "nostalgic" craving for the gummi bears they loved as an elementary school kid, you may want to be skeptical about the nostalgia and sudden appearance of large quantities of gummi bears in their backpack.
2. Synthetic Marijuana
You may have heard about this drug, but have no idea what it is or what it looks like. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 2,906 calls relating to human exposure to synthetic marijuana were received in 2010. Twice that number (6,959) were received in 2011, and 639 had been received in the first month of 2012. This drug is banned in many states, but makers are working as hard to change the formulas as law makers are passing laws.
This drug may go by the brand names K2, Spice, Mr. Nice Guy and Genie, says Dr. Tod Burke, Professor of Criminal Justice at Radford University in Radford, Va. Synthetic marijuana is a misnomer as its side effects are typically much more severe than actual marijuana. Those effects can include psychotic episodes, suicidal tendencies and even death.
“It’s popular among young people because the drug produces a euphoric-like high, it’s easy to obtain, and it’s relatively inexpensive,” says Burke.
Some smoke shops and convenience stores sell synthetic marijuana labeled as "incense." At this time, synthetic marijuana is not detectable using traditional drug testing methods. This also makes it attractive to many young people who may be required to take drug tests as part of athletic team membership, Burke says. Foil packages containing herbal looking substances are a good clue for parents and they can have any name: one is even called “Peace of Mind.”
Salvinorin-A is actually a plant found in Oaxaca, Mexico and is sold in the U.S. under the names Salvia Divinorum, Shepherd’s Herb, Diviner’s Sage, Seer’s Sage, Maria Pastora, Magic Mint and Sally-D, according to Sutton. It is smoked as a joint, consumed in water pipes or vaporized and inhaled, but like synthetic marijuana, this drug is much more potent than traditional marijuana. The effects may include out of body experiences, changes in visual perception and emotional swings that include intense feelings of detachment.
If you find a plant-like substance that doesn't smell like traditional marijuana in your child's dresser drawer and they tell you it's a bag of oregano, don't rush to commend them on their gardening.
4. Bath Salts
You may have heard of these, but don't confuse them with what you put into your bath for relaxation. These synthetic cathinones are designed to have the same effects as methamphetamine, says Sutton. These drugs may come in very colorful packages, either foil pouches with psychedelic art or the mixture labeled “Bath Salts” come in a jar similar to what you would find for spa bath salt. Common names also include Plant Food, Ivory Wave, Purple Wave, Vanilla Sky, White Lightning and Meow Meow.
Arguably the worst of the new wave of synthetic drugs, the bath salts are snorted, inhaled, injected or smoked and can last 72 hours to 12 days, causing extreme energy, psychosis, paranoia and insomnia. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of calls related to bath salt exposure received by poison control centers across the country increased by more than 20 times in 2011 alone, up from 304 in 2010 to 6,138.
If your teen has a jar in their closet that when discovered they say was purchased at the bath and beauty store and was going to be a Mother's Day surprise or birthday gift for mom, don't necessarily thank them.
5. Whippits or Whip-its
A holdover from the Grateful Dead concert era, these are the nitrous oxide cylinders commonly found in whipped cream. You may also know it from trips to the dentist, where patients undergoing more serious dental procedures are sometimes given "laughing gas."
Dr. Elizabeth Waterman, a psychologist at Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, Calif. explains that the gas from the cylinders is often emptied into a balloon and inhaled to produce an out-of-body, or dissociated, type of experience. The high only lasts for seconds and causes the brain to be deprived of oxygen.
For whip creams fans among mom and dads, a tub of Cool Whip is a good alternative for the refrigerator, or a quart of heavy cream, which with a little help from a whisk or food processor, can make whipped cream the old-fashioned way.
6. Hand Sanitizer
One of the most common things kept around the house or in a purse is one of the things kids are currently turning into an illicit drug, says Dr. Waterman. Hand sanitizers can contain 62 percent ethyl alcohol. “A distillation process that involves the use of salt is sometimes used to separate the alcohol from other ingredients in the product,” says Waterman. “The distilled liquid is consumed like a shot of liquor.”
7. Prescription drugs
You should know that kids stealing prescription pain killers such as Oxycontin, Roxicodone, Vicodin, Norco and Percocet from their parents and grandparents medicine cabinet is already a big problem, but you may not know that some common prescription drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Concertaare are also a problem due to their stimulant qualities. Dr. Waterman adds these drugs to the list of common prescription target of teenagers: Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. A less common problem but a growing one, is muscle relaxers, Waterman cautions.
8. Aerosol dusters
In the 1980s, it was “huffing” glue. In 2012, you have to watch those little cans of aerosol dusters found in most homes with computers. “People typically spray the product onto a napkin or cloth and inhale it to produce an almost immediate high that lasts only seconds,” says Waterman. “This is highly dangerous when inhaled in large amounts and can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, lungs, and other organs.”
While no longer popular, a plastic dust cover for a home computer, or a cloth specifically designed to remove dust from screens without damaging them, can eliminate or in the least lessen the need for an aerosol duster.
--By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell