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Throughout the nation high school seniors are celebrating their graduations over the next few weeks. But what should be a joyous occasion can quickly turn into a nightmare for a teen and family if drug or alcohol use spirals out of control – as it often does during high school graduation.

In a freshly minted survey conducted by; the highly regarded drug addiction information web site ranked the 10 drugs teen’s abuse by American high school seniors over the past several years.

It is a “good news bad news,” report. The good news is the survey is consistent with the famed National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Monitoring the Future survey which shows alcohol, cigarette and illicit drug abuse by high schoolers has decreased over the past 20 years.

And the bad news is that marijuana use remains high.

As of 2014, nearly 34 percent of high school seniors had said they consumed marijuana within the past year. The study also found that many high school kids still abuse prescription drugs such as adderall and vicodin.

In another survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the report found that by a high school student’s senior year, 70 percent have tried alcohol, 50 percent have experimented with illegal drugs, 40 percent have smoked a cigarette and approximately 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a non-medical purpose.

Here are the top 10 drugs that high school students abuse most:

1. Marijuana – is the word used to describe the dried flowers, seeds and leaves of the Indian hemp plant. On the street, it is called by many other names, such as dope, ganja, grass, pot, Mary Jane, reefer, and weed. Cannabis describes any of the different drugs that come from Indian hemp, including marijuana and hashish. The chemical in cannabis that creates this distortion is known as THC. The amount of THC found in any given batch of marijuana may vary substantially, but overall, the percentage of THC has increased in recent years.


2. Amphetamines – are  central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. Amphetamines are supposed to be used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but sadly teens abuse the drugs in some instances.


3. Adderall – contains a combination of amphetamines and dextroamphetamines. These drugs are central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. Teens abuse adderall in a variety of ways including taking a higher dose of the substance than prescribed, taking the medicine through a non-approved method like snorting, taking the drug for reasons other than medical need, such as to stay awake for long periods of time, taking the medication more frequently than prescribed, taking others medication or purchasing the drug from an illicit source for recreational use.


4. Synthetic Marijuana – is also called Spice, K2, synthetic cannabis, and potpourri. Synthetic marijuana refers to a growing number of man-made and mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked (herbal incense) or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense).

Synthetic marijuana

5. Tranquilizers – examples of tranquilizers include: quaaludes, xanax, valium, klonopin, and ativan. Some street names are benzos and downers. Tranquilizers are prescription medications which act as central nervous system depressants. They come in two forms: barbiturates which are prescription sedatives or “sleeping pills” and benzodiazepines which are prescription tranquilizers.


6. Cough Medicine – DXM or dextromethorphan is a common ingredient in cough and combination cold medicines. DXM represents nearly half of all of the Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs sold in the U.S. For teens experimenting with drugs, DXM is extremely popular since it is inexpensive, easy to get, and legal. Street terms for cough medicine abuse include: Dexting, Orange Crush, Robo-tripping and Tussing.

Another drug to be concerned about is promethazine which is frequently found in cough syrups. It contains codeine, an opioid that acts as a cough suppressant and can also produce relaxation and euphoria when consumed at a higher-than-prescribed dose. Some teens abuse these OTC drugs to get high.

cough medicine

7. Vicodin – Physicians often prescribe vicodin, a combination of hydrocodone (an opiate) and acetaminophen, for the relief of moderate to severe pain. It works by blocking pain receptors in the brain. Vicodin induces a sense of euphoria, making it extremely effective, but also highly addictive. Once vicodin is stored in the family medicine cabinet – teens have easy access to take them and abuse them – in many cases resulting in addiction. Often it becomes a pathway to heroin use, or in extreme cases a fatal overdose.


8. Hallucinogens – are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions), thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be human-made. Common hallucinogens include the following: ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, peyote (mescaline), and psilocybin.


9. Oxycontin – is the brand name for the drug oxycodone. It is a potent synthetic opiate painkiller that is commonly prescribed for individuals who are struggling with moderate-to-severe pain. Oxycontin, a narcotic, is available only through a prescription from a physician for pain management. Unfortunately, a significant amount of oxycontin is diverted from medical facilities and sold on the street.

Similar to heroin, oxycontin produces – along with pain management – a euphoric high caused by a stimulation to the reward center of the brain. Oxycontin elevates levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is considered to be the pleasure chemical of the brain. On the street, oxycontin is also known as Oxy, Hillbilly Heroin, and Kickers. It is often used as a substitute for some addicts if heroin or morphine is not available.


10. EcstasyMDMA is the official scientific name for ecstasy which is a frequently-used slang term. Ecstasy is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception. However, since MDMA is currently illegal and therefore unregulated, anything sold as ecstasy could range from being pure MDMA, to being cut with other drugs, to containing no MDMA at all.


Key Takeaways

1. The top ten list did not include some of the most notorious drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth.

2. Four of the top 10 drugs (adderall, tranquilizers, vicodin, and oxycontin) are prescription medications. This reflects NIDA’s statistic that says as high as 20 percent of high school seniors have used a prescription drug for non-medical purposes.

3. Six of the top 10 drugs (adderall, tranquilizers, cough medicine, vicodin, and oxycontin) can be found in many teens family’ medicine cabinets.

4. Marijuana use has increased to the number one position as cigarette and alcohol use has declined in a continued trend.

Top 10 Drugs Teen’s Abuse
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