Category Archives: Teen

Does Exposure to Substance Use Promote Antisocial Behavior in Teenagers?

As parents know very well, most teenage children sometimes exhibit signs of antisocial behavior. Within limits, this type of behavior is an expected part of the normal process of growing up. However, if it appears frequently or in excessive amounts, antisocial behavior may point to the presence of dangerous changes in mental health. In some cases, highly antisocial children grow up to be dysfunctionally antisocial adults. Mental health specialists know that children who repeatedly witness excessive drug or alcohol use often have increased long-term chances of developing a broad range of behavioral problems. Current evidence now indicates that teenagers who see other people consuming drugs or alcohol also have highly increased chances of experiencing more-or-less immediate spikes in their antisocial tendencies.

Antisocial Behavior in Teens and Younger Children

The term antisocial behavior is used to describe a broad range of socially harmful actions, including such things as lying, stealing, cheating, physical aggression toward others and the destruction of property. During childhood and adolescence, most people occasionally engage in this type of behavior. Your child typically has increased chances of acting antisocially during moments of high stress, when he or she reaches the limits of the developing brain’s healthy coping mechanisms. While this “normal” antisocial behavior may cause serious problems in any given situation, it does not usually develop into a significant, ongoing pattern.

A child who develops a repeated pattern of clearly antisocial behavior has a substantially reduced chance of interacting well with others or experiencing a sense of personal well-being. At the extreme, a highly antisocial child may experience problems serious enough to merit an official mental health diagnosis. Under current guidelines, doctors can diagnose either of two antisocial conditions in a child: oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder. (A third condition, antisocial personality disorder, is only officially diagnosed in people age 18 or older.)

Long-Term Behavioral Effects of Witnessing Excessive Substance Use

If your child is repeatedly exposed to environments where excessive substance intake occurs, he or she has increased chances of eventually developing significant behavioral problems. Several factors help explain this link. For example, substance-heavy social and home environments commonly lack the stability and reliability that children need to feel mentally/emotionally secure. Children in substance-heavy environments also have increased chances of experiencing or witnessing some sort of physical or sexual assault. In addition, a child repeatedly exposed to other people involved in excessive drug or alcohol use may grow up thinking that dysfunctional substance intake is an acceptable social norm.

Short-Term Antisocial Effects of Witnessing Excessive Substance Use

In a study published in December 2015 in the journal Development and Psychopathology, researchers from two American universities looked at what happens to the short-term behavior of teenagers who witness other people consuming alcohol or taking drugs. In the past, scientists had no good way of obtaining such immediate behavioral feedback. However, in this particular project, the researchers used cell phone surveys of 151 teens to gain the information they sought. All of the participants were age 11 to age 15 and filled out surveys on their cell phones three times daily for just over a month. In each survey, the participating teens reported any exposure to other people consuming drugs or alcohol. Each teen was also asked to report same-day involvement in antisocial behaviors such as hitting another person, stealing from another person or destroying another person’s property.

The researchers found that teenagers of both sexes have significantly increased chances of committing an antisocial act on the same day that they witness someone taking drugs or consuming alcohol. This finding applies to all of the teens enrolled in the study. However, by far, the greatest chances of acting antisocially after witnessing substance use appear in teenagers with a specific genetic variation that makes people more prone to restlessness.

Compared to a teenager who doesn’t witness substance use, a teen without the genetic mutation that sees someone consuming drugs or alcohol is twice as likely to act antisocially that same day. In a teenager with the mutation, the odds of acting antisocially after witnessing substance use increase to four times as likely.

Offsetting the Risk

Fortunately, even if your teenager frequently witnesses other people in the act of using drugs or alcohol, several factors can potentially offset the risks for antisocial behavior and other types of behavioral problems. These factors include the development of good social skills, the ability to discuss problems openly with at least one parent, involvement in organizations that don’t tolerate members who act antisocially and an active social life with friends and family members who do not drink in excessive amounts or use drugs at all. Ongoing substance use in adolescence can itself be viewed as a form of antisocial behavior. For this reason, preventive measures typically work best when taken before your teenage son or daughter begins even experimental consumption of alcohol or drugs. It is important to note that if you have untreated substance abuse problems, your daily example may steeply increase the odds that your teen will exhibit antisocial tendencies.

What to Do If You Think Your College-Age Child Is Drinking or Using Drugs

Most parents feel a sense of responsibility toward their children even when they are grown. It can be scary to send your child off to college without knowing what challenges he or she might face. Some college-age adults experiment with drinking and drugs, and some of those adults develop alcohol or drug dependency. It can be hard to know what to do if you think your adult child is misusing drugs or alcohol, especially since your parenting role has changed and you are not involved in your child’s everyday life.

Before You Speak With Your Child

Some parents are hesitant to ask their children if they are drinking or using drugs because they fear they may be overreacting or relying on false information. Since you will want to be prepared when you do have the discussion with your child, it can be helpful to get some information beforehand. You can read up on signs and symptoms of chemical dependency to see if your child is displaying any of the behaviors. You can also discuss your concerns with a professional, like a counselor, doctor or member of the clergy. Helpful information to relay to these professionals is the type and amount of alcohol or drugs you think your child has been using, how often and for how long you think your child has been using, and any negative consequences or reactions that have arisen from addressing the issue with your child already. Lastly, make sure you and the rest of your family are safe from any potential physical danger.

When to Speak to Your Child

Ideally, it is best to set up a time for you and your child to talk that will be devoid of distractions. Also, it is never a good idea to confront your child when he or she is currently under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When you discuss your concerns with your child, use caring language. Tell your son or daughter that your concerns come from a loving place. Avoid placing blame on yourself or directing blame toward your child. You are not responsible for someone else’s addiction, and pointing fingers generally makes the person suffering from addiction defensive, which can impede his or her willingness to seek treatment.

Some people think it best to wait until the loved one has reached “rock bottom” before addressing their concerns. This approach often has downfalls, though. The person may be so entrenched in his addiction that his life is in danger. Also, the earlier a person gets help, the better. While your child may react negatively, in the long run you can rest assured knowing that you are doing the loving thing by opening up communication about potential addiction. By speaking up early, you may also be able to help your child avoid crises, like dropping out of school or getting kicked out of housing.

Actions to Avoid

While your instinct is to protect your child no matter what, some types of protection can actually cause increased dependency. For example, if you consistently give your child money and have discovered that he or she is abusing drugs or alcohol, it is best not to continue to offer this type of support without knowing where your money is going. Instead, you can buy your child groceries or offer to pay for a treatment program. Even offering a spare room or a couch can help assuage any fears you have about not being there for your child, as long as doing so won’t put you or others in physical danger.

When Speaking With Your Child Doesn’t Help

While sometimes just bringing up the conversation with your child can lead to positive changes, often a child will continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. Some people try to quit and realize they cannot do so without formal treatment. Others are simply resistant to change. If your child tells you that he or she doesn’t have a problem but one does exist, you may want to host an intervention. Interventions can be tricky, so it is best to research information before the event. Have anyone positive be present and anyone who may aggravate the situation remain absent. The intervention should be kept positive and centered around getting your child the help he or she needs. Emphasize how you as a family would like to work toward healing and a positive future.

Some adult children may try to use threats to maintain their current lifestyle. They may insist that they will take their lives or end up homeless if you do not give them money, sign rental agreements or bail them out of jail, etc. Though you may be tempted to help them in these situations, trust your best judgment. If this would end up putting you in financial strife, or if you think your child would continue down a destructive path, employing tough love can be the best option for both you and your child in the long run.

How Common Is Prescription Opioid Abuse in Teens Who Start Using Heroin?

Heroin consumption is on the rise in America, and that rise has been accompanied by an increased rate of heroin addiction and overdose. Current evidence shows that a substantial portion of heroin consumers actually start out as abusers of prescription opioid medications. While many experts focus on the link between the two forms of substance intake in adults, the same connection also affects significant numbers of teenagers. In fact, the results of a recently published study indicate that the clear majority of U.S. teens who consume heroin in their senior year of high school first abused an opioid medication.

Prescription Opioids versus Opioid Street Drugs

Prescription opioids are a large family of medications that come directly or indirectly from mind-altering substances found in a plant called the opium poppy. In addition to producing an intense feeling called euphoria inside your brain’s pleasure center, these medications help block or reduce your brain’s ability to sense pain. It is this second property that makes prescription opioids a common treatment option for people with certain types of moderate to severe pain symptoms.

Heroin and other opioid street drugs also come from mind-altering substances found in the opium poppy. They also have the same euphoria-producing, painkilling effects as opioid medications. However, opioid street drugs are not produced under the same types of monitored conditions as prescription opioids. This means that no user can accurately predict the potency of any given batch of these drugs, or predict whether or not a batch contains dangerous additives or contaminants. In addition, while opioid medications are only legitimately prescribed by a licensed doctor, opioid street drug consumption by its very nature occurs without medical supervision.

Prescription opioid medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin share two other unfortunate traits with heroin and other illegal opioid street drugs. First, inside the pleasure center, repeated exposure to both groups of substances can lead to long-lasting chemical changes that set the stage for physical dependence and full-blown opioid addiction. This means that, regardless of which specific substance you consume, any habitual abuse or misuse of an opioid medication or street drug comes with clear addiction risks. In addition, if you consume too much of any of these substances, you can develop the potentially lethal toxic reaction known as an overdose.

Prescription Opioid Abuse

Since opioid medications can trigger addiction or overdose if consumed in excessive amounts, you must have a prescription to use them legally. Technically speaking, you become a prescription opioid abuser whenever you start consuming an opioid medication in larger amounts than your doctor intends. However, for clarity’s sake, many experts refer to this behavior as opioid misuse, not opioid abuse. That is because opioid abuse also has a separate, official definition as part of a diagnosable medical condition called opioid use disorder. It is important to note that, no matter how much medication you consume, any use of a prescription opioid without a doctor’s written approval also qualifies as opioid misuse.

Teenagers and Prescription Opioids

Misuse of prescription opioids occurs in a small but substantial number of American teenagers. The federal government tracks this misuse with information gathered from an annual, nationwide survey called Monitoring the Future. According to the most recent results from this survey, reported in late 2015, roughly 4.4 percent of all high school seniors misuse the medication Vicodin (which contains the opioid hydrocodone) at least once a year. Roughly 3.7 percent of seniors misuse the medication OxyContin (which contains the opioid oxycodone) at least once yearly. Younger teens misuse these two medications at a lower, but still significant, rate. On any given day of the year, roughly 2,500 American teens misuse an opioid medication for the first time. Altogether, about 12 percent of all teens throughout the country have a lifetime history of prescription opioid misuse.

Teenagers, Opioid Medication Misuse and Heroin

Addiction experts know that improper use of opioid medications is sometimes a gateway for heroin consumption. Several factors help explain this connection. For example, some prescription opioid misusers switch to heroin because the street drug is often much cheaper and easier to obtain than an opioid medication. Some OxyContin misusers switch over to heroin consumption because changes in that medication’s formula now discourage tampering and easy illicit use.

About 1.2 percent of all American teenagers have used heroin at least once. In a study published in November 2015 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of American researchers used five years of data from Monitoring the Future (2009-2013) to determine how many high school seniors who consume heroin started out as prescription opioid misusers. After analyzing information gathered from a total of 67,822 seniors, these researchers found that fully three-quarters of the students involved in heroin use had a previous history of improper opioid medication intake. Among those students who misused a prescription opioid 41 times or more, the rate of lifetime heroin intake jumped from the baseline of 1.2 percent to a shocking 25 percent.

The chances of transitioning from prescription opioid misuse to heroin consumption are not equally distributed among all high school seniors. The researchers found that one particular group, seniors with European-American ancestry, has substantially higher odds of making this dangerous switch. However, whatever their racial/ethnic background, teenagers who start misusing prescription opioids often do so because they consider these medications to be safer than street drugs. This mistaken perception has potentially tragic consequences.

Prevention and Help

Fortunately, prevention campaigns targeted at teenagers can significantly lower the rate of medication misuse and help halt the gradual slide into heroin consumption. If your teen misuses a prescription opioid, you can seek help from a professional addiction treatment resource. You can also seek professional advice from an addiction specialist if you suspect that your teenager has any degree of involvement in heroin use.

Teens: Text Language and Code Words Teens Use to Mask Drug Use

If you think you are familiar with the slang terms that teens use to talk about drug use, think again. Code words like grass or Mary Jane (marijuana) and rock or snow (cocaine) may have once been used to hide drug use from parents and authority figures, but they are now so well known that they have very little chance of fooling anyone.

Code language has grown and evolved as teens try to stay one step ahead, and modern technology has made it possible for this language to evolve even more quickly. Thanks to the Internet, new slang terms can spread like wildfire and become widely popularized among teenagers in almost no time at all. For parents who want to keep up, it is not simply a matter of learning today’s drug slang, but also tomorrow’s and the day after’s.

Text language has also become ever more complex, to the point where text conversations can seem like gibberish to the uninitiated. While such language is often used simply for convenience, it can be used to hide conversations about drugs, sex or other things that teens would prefer to keep hidden.

The More You Know

Familiarizing yourself with the appearance, effects, origins and chemical components of various drugs can help you to detect new code words for drugs. These code words frequently reflect the properties of the drugs to which they refer; for example, the terms snow, dust, rock, flake, powder and white all refer to the physical properties of cocaine. Speed is a type of amphetamine, so called because of the rush of energy it provides. After September 11, 2001, heroin (which often originates in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan) came to be known as Bin Laden. Even knowing a drug’s history may provide you with clues—methamphetamine supposedly acquired the nickname crank because it used to be smuggled in vehicle crankcases.

Drug slang also frequently plays on the most common names for drugs. Just like Mary Jane became a nickname for cannabis because it sounds like an Anglicized version of marijuana, Stacy has become a nickname for ecstasy because, well, it sounds like ecstasy. Slang terms for GHB, which stands for gamma hydroxybutyrate, often use alternative words for these initials, such as Georgia Home Boy and Grievous Bodily Harm.

Find the Theme

Just because older slang terms for drugs become outdated does not mean that they can’t be useful. New terms are often thematically similar to older ones, hence the vast number of names that all reflect the fact that cocaine is a white powder or that cannabis comes from a flowering herb plant. If you know that snow, dust, flake and powder all refer to cocaine, you may be able to guess that sugar does also.

Code words can also evolve, often to the point where the current slang barely resembles the original term. However, knowing a few of these terms may help you to identify new terms that fit into the same evolutionary sequence. Quite a few code words for cocaine have arisen from the Spanish slang term llello, which evolved into yeyo, then to yay and eventually to yale, yank, yahoo and more.

Translating Texting

Teen text speak has moved so far beyond LOL that even those people who consider themselves pretty Internet savvy are likely to find themselves stumped by more than a few terms and abbreviations. If you are concerned about your teen’s possible drug use, there are a few of these terms to watch out for. Not surprisingly, the digits 420 are often used to refer to marijuana. CID may refer to acid (LSD), while XTC is a common initialism for ecstasy. You might also watch out for messages such as PIR (parent in room) or the number 9 (which also warns that a parent is near), since both may suggest that teens have something to discuss that they don’t want you to know about.

All About Context

You don’t always have to know exactly what a word or phrase means to suspect that it may refer to illicit drug use. For example, if it seems strange that teens are talking with enthusiasm about a bland breakfast cereal, they may not mean the Special K made by Kellogg’s. Words seemingly used out of context or phrases that seems like non sequiturs are good clues that teens are trying to disguise the true meaning of a conversation.

In the end, your own instincts and the ability to spot words and phrases that sound a bit strange are going to be your best resources. There is simply too much drug-related slang to memorize it all, even if it weren’t evolving on a regular basis. However, if you do notice terms that set the alarm bells ringing, sites like and are good places to seek a translation and see if your suspicions are correct. has an extensive section specifically for drug slang, and while it isn’t comprehensive (which would be practically impossible); it has a very extensive number of entries.

Latest Drug Fads: How Teens Are Getting High These Days

Teens will always test boundaries. They will always push the limits, look for new experiences and rebel against the rules. These are facts of life for most teenagers, and for the most part there is nothing wrong with these kinds of behaviors. Teens are exploring and learning who they are. However, when that exploration leads to drug use or alcohol abuse, normal and healthy experimentation can turn deadly and life-changing. From addiction and overdoses to assault and legal problems, drug and alcohol use for teens is fraught with serious consequences.

Parents and other responsible adults may find it hard to believe that their teen would get involved with these activities, but any teen is susceptible to the desire to experiment and the pressure to follow the herd. For parents, being aware of the possibilities is powerful and important. If you know what is out there, you know what to look for, and teens always have something new up their sleeves. Here are just some of the latest trends in drug use that all parents need to know about:

  1. Concentrated THC. With marijuana legal in several states, parents are bound to be worried about easier access for teens. And it is not just marijuana that should concern parents. Concentrated forms of the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, THC, are becoming increasingly popular. Two of the most popular forms are wax, which is a waxy substance, and shatter, which looks more like toffee or colored glass. Other names include 710, honey oil, budder, BHO, dabs and black glass. They can be smoked or used in e-cigarettes and contain as much as 40 to 80 percent THC, whereas the highest grade marijuana contains around 20 percent THC. These products cause a more potent high as a result, which can be dangerous. They are also odorless, which makes them easier to hide than marijuana.
  2. Snorting cocaine on Facebook. Social media is often to blame for the propagation of drug fads among teen populations. Once recent trend is cocaine use among upper- and middle-class teens in Mexico. Cocaine is not new, but the way the trend is moving through this group of teens is. Like the fundraising “ice bucket challenge” for ALS, these teens are challenging each other on social media to snort cocaine, record it and show it on their social media site to challenge the next friend. This is a dangerous game and it highlights not a new drug, but a new way that doing drugs becomes trendy with teens. This is just one of many reasons parents need to be vigilant about their teens’ social media use.
  3. Heroin. Heroin use among teens (and all age groups) has been steadily rising over the last decade. The upward trend is not new, but it is important because it is not slowing down and it is affecting teens from the inner city to rural areas to the suburbs. No group is exempt from this harmful drug. The blame is often placed on prescription opioid drugs, which have been overprescribed in the past. With crackdowns on the prescription pills, heroin, which is a similar drug, has filled the void as a cheaper alternative. Unfortunately it has led to record numbers of overdose deaths. To protect your teen from this fate, be aware of any prescription drug abuse. It can act like a gateway to heroin use.
  4. Pharm parties. A pharm party may just be where your teen is first exposed to prescription drug abuse. These trendy parties are gatherings of teens to share any prescriptions they have been able to pilfer from home medicine cabinets or elsewhere and to get high. Commonly abused prescriptions include stimulants, like those used to treat ADHD, and opioid painkillers like codeine, oxycodone, meperidine, oxymorphone and others.
  5. Flakka. Designer drugs of all types, from bath salts to synthetic marijuana, have been trends in street drugs over the last few years. A more recent one is called flakka, or alpha-PVP. Designer drugs are those made synthetically in a laboratory. Flakka is a synthetic cathinone and is related to the substances that have been called bath salts. It is currently most prevalent in Florida but is spreading quickly to other parts of the country. These kinds of drugs are very dangerous, and flakka has been known to cause delirium, hallucinations, paranoia, suicide and heart attacks. It is also easy to take too much and overdose.
  6. Household highs. In addition to the street drugs and prescription drugs that teens are currently experimenting with, there are household substances that they continuously find new ways to abuse. Cough syrup is a perennial favorite, as is any inhalant that can be “huffed” or inhaled, like paint thinner or whipped cream canisters. Other trends that have arisen include drinking hand sanitizer, putting vodka in the eye socket or soaking tampons in vodka.

If you have a teen you suspect has been using any of these drugs, alcohol or any other type of substance, intervening is crucial. It is not easy to approach a teen you suspect of drug abuse, but it is important that you do to avoid serious and long-lasting consequences. If you are struggling to get your teen to stop using please seek professional help and guidance as soon as possible. With the right treatment, targeted to your teen’s needs, you can both overcome this roadblock and get back on the path to a healthy, drug-free life.