13 Dangerous (and Stupid) Ways Teens Get High

Potentially lethal activities kids do that every parent and educator must know

Some things never change: teens have always been risk takers, thrill seekers and want to fit in. But oh the “creative” ways adolescents try to get high these days… like soaking tampons with liquor and inserting them, infusing alcohol into gummy bears and popping them anyplace and anytime, and drinking hand sanitizer. They even have clever ways to store their stash these days like in sandals that come with a handy small canteen and bottle opener on the side, in small flashlights or emptied marking pen holders. But some kid crazes are flat-out dangerous: pouring Vodka  into your eye (which could burn your cornea or even cause blindness) or even lethal such as mixing Robitussin DM cough syrup with Sprite and a Jolly Rancher. Many items kids use are right in your home from hairspray, whipped cream, deodorant, glue, nail polish remover, and even cleaning spray.  Youtube videos are plentiful and not only sensationalize the craze but provide kids with play-by-play directions.

Many of these crazes are not new, some are trending in only certain geographic areas, and a few are just mind-boggling. Regardless, do let your teen know you’re aware of these activities. While there are no guarantees, studies show that when teens know they’re being monitored, their risky behaviors often decrease. Meanwhile, keep repeating this mantra to your kid over and over: “Getting high – no matter how you do it – has health risks that could be permanent.  There are “no take backs.” Here are 13 dangerous ways kids and teens are getting high that every parent and educator needs to know.

Vodka Eyeballing or Eyeballing

Let’s start with the unbelievable craze .. “I can’t believe a kid would do that”…but they do. It’s called eyeballing and it’s when a teen holds a vodka bottle to his eye and pours the alcohol directly into the eye. The alcohol is quickly absorbed and enters the bloodstream quickly (through the veins at the back of the eye). It gives teens a fast high and disguises the smell of the alcohol.

Dangers: The alcohol could scar and burn the cornea and cause blindness.

Purple Drinks or Purple Drank (Sizzurp, Drank, Barre, Purple Jelly, Lean, and Syrup) 

Purple Drank is a slang term for a recreational drink combining over the counter cough syrups (such as Robitussin DM, which contains dextromethorphan with codeine) to a soft drink (usually Sprite, Mountain Dew or 7-Up) and a candy – generally Jolly Ranchers. The purplish tint of the drink comes from the dyes in the cough syrup. The candy, soft drink and cough syrup combo creates a quick tension or aggression “cure.” An extra-strength version of the drink is to use prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine which teens order from online pharmacies or borrow from their medicine cabinets.

A University of Texas study found that 8.3% of second school students in Texas took codeine syrup to get high. The drug trend is most popular in the South (particularly Texas and Louisiana) and is celebrated in rap songs. Beware: only 45 percent of teens believe that abusing cough medicine to get high is risky. Talk!

Dangers: In large doses the combination can cause hallucinations as well as drowsiness, an inability to concentrate, slowed physical activity, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and slowed breathing. Just a single drink could be lethal. Overdosing on prescription syrup is potentially fatal.

Alcohol Soaked Tampons

The craze is soaking a tampon with your liquor of choice (rum or vodka appear to be most popular), and then inserting it vaginally or rectally. The tampon contains about a shot of alcohol which quickly absorbed  into the blood stream to produce a rapid intoxication.

Teens cite a few reasons for the craze: “It’s a fast way to get high,” “The alcohol gets quickly into your system,” “You don’t throw up,” “It doesn’t take as much alcohol to get high,”  ”You can’t smell it on your breath,” “It’s easy to carry.”

“Butt chugging” is another trend among the male set in which guys insert beer bongs rectally, and then get high on the alcohol.

Dangers: Physicians say that the alcohol can burn or damage the vagina or rectum. The craze also can cause alcohol poisoning and have life-threatening consequences. If the teen passes out or loses consciousness the mental health professional may not know the reason (or know where to look), and delay critical treatment.

 Dexing, Skittling, Robo-Tripping

Although Dextromethorphan–or DXM–(the ingredient found in most popular nonprescription cold and cough medicines) can be safely taken in 15 to 30 milligram doses, when taken in significant doses can produce euphoric highs and even hallucinations. And many kids are taking sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose to get that high.

One out of every fourteen kids aged 12 to 17 (more than 2.4 million) admit using cold or cough medicine “fairly recently” to get high.

Only 45 percent of teens believe that abusing cough medicine to get high is risky. Check this blog to learn the signs of cold and cough syrup addiction. Cough syrup is readily accessible in stores and online, but most kids say they easiest place to get it is right in their own medicine cabinets at home.

Dangers: The American Medical Association released a warning to parents that when kids take this in large amounts it can become a dangerous, even deadly mind-altering drug, and intake is on the rise.Perhaps because medicines containing DXM are easily accessible in drug stores (or medicine cabinets) and is legal, cold-and cough syrup abuse has soared in recent years.

Vodka Gummy Bears, Boozy Bears, or Gummy Bear Shots

Infusing candy such as gummy bears with alcohol is a popular fad. The bears are soaked in vodka or other liquor in small bowls or plastic baggies), and then stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Websites and YouTube videos (which get huge hits) teach kids the process. Teens then carry the gummies in their pockets or in plastic baggies, and then pop them in their mouths whenever convenient- including with friends, at school, at parties and at home. The gummies are cheap, very accessible, easy to hide, and have no odor. The candy sweetness disguises that harsh liquor taste so it makes it easier for the teen to consume the alcohol. 

Dangers: Teen risk-taking increases with the consumption of alcohol including car accidents, drowning, falling, or being in unsafe or uncomfortable situations. Drug and alcohol counselors worry liquor-soaked gummy candy could make it more appealing for teens to take their first taste of alcohol, and the earlier kids have their first drink the higher the risk for substance abuse.

Drinking Hand Sanitizer

Yes, hand sanitizer, the over-the counter cleanser, and teens are using it to get high. It’s cheap, easily accessible and contains 62 percent ethyl alcohol. Some teens use salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer, making a strong concoction that is similar to a shot of hard liquor. (Distillation instructions can be found on the Internet).

Dangers: Teens are showing up in emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning after drinking hand sanitizer. Watch your supply!

Alcoholic Whipped Cream

This is a new whipped cream product called “whipohol” or “alcoholic whipped cream” that is sold in stores. The cream is infused with 15 percent alcohol. Though the cream may seem tame, what concerns substance abuse counselors is that younger kids are partaking, and the earlier a child has their first drink the more likely the problem for substance abuse later.

Dangers:  The alcoholic taste is concealed with a cream and sugary sweetness taste so alcohol abuse is easy. Too much or any alcohol, especially on a younger body and brain, can have deadly consequences.

Prescription Drug Abuse or Medicine Abuse 

One of the riskiest teen behaviors is right in your own medicine cabinet. More than 3.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 report abusing prescription drugs which is a particularly popular habit during exam time. One in ten teens say they have used Vicodin a potentially habit-forming painkiller. OxyContin, stimulants like Ritalin, inhalers (all prescription medications) are also widely used. “Borrowing” prescription drugs from parents or siblings-especially Ritalin-continues to be a  hot trend.

Watch, count, and, if needed, “lock up” your medications. Also, check your credit card statement since teens admit that prescriptions drugs are easy to purchase online. Pharmacies and drug stores are now locking these medicines up to fight off kid theft.

Dangers: Taking and abusing any prescription drug can have potentially lethal consequences.When mixed with liquor they become a toxic combo.

Bath Salts (“Purple Wave,” “Zoom,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “Cloud Nine”) 

Bath Salts sound lovely and relaxing, but they’re deadly, and already illegal in some states. They are very different from the product you put into a bath – this type packs as much punch as cocaine or methamphetamines and are highly dangerous.  The man-made chemicals most often found in bath salts are methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV, mephedrone and methylone. The products contain clear warnings on their labels that state: “Do not ingest” and “Not for human consumption.” They usually are contained in a small packet and can be purchased over the Internet, in convenient stores (packaged as “vitamins” or “energy boosters,”), head shops, smoke shops or in gas stations.

Beware: Not all packages are marked “Bath Salts.” Related drugs have been sold as plant feeder, insect repellent and stain remover. Teens ingest bath salts by snorting them through the nose, taken orally or smoking the substance.

Dangers: Teens say the product gives them “energy” and alertness, but it can also stop their hearts (literally!). Side effects include chest pain or erratic or increased heart rates, hallucinations, confusion, euphoria, nausea, extreme paranoia, and violent behavior, suicidal tendencies. Long-term effects of the drug are unknown.

Huffing or Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse (called “huffing”) is intentionally inhaling a chemical vapor of some type to attain a “high” or euphoric effect. The primary population of inhalant abusers are kids 12 to 17 years old, and the activity is more common than you may realize. Hundreds of common household products have the potential to be inhaled.  Spray paint, rubber cement, whipped cream canisters, hair sprays, deodorant, hair care products, laughing gas (nitrous oxide), paint thinner, glue, nail polish remover, cleaning sprays (like Dust-Off) felt-tip markers, or even gasoline are just a few examples of products kids have been inhaled. Males and females are equally likely to initiate inhalant use.  Huffing is the third most abused substance by teens.The 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that 18% of eighth graders admitted having used inhalants (huffing) at least once in their lifetime.

Watch for missing or empathy chemical containers left around the house or in the garbage. The abuser often has symptoms such as drunken-like appearance, glassy eyes, chemical smell on clothing or breath, slurred speech, or restlessness, nervousness or mood swings.

Dangers: Huffing effects can be both short and long term depending upon the substance abuse and in what concentrations they are abused. Huffing can cause permanent damage to the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and brain. Huffing can also lead to cardiac arrest, asphyxiation, aspiration or suffocation from inhalation as well as death. Serious consequences can occur after just the first time of use.

Marijuana (MaryJ, Pot, Weed, Reefer, Hay, MaryJane, Grass)

Marijuana use among teens is on the rise. The study by the Partnership at Drugfree.org found, sponsored by the MetLife Foundation, found that nearly 1 in 10 lighting up at least 20 or more times a month. Besides the traditional way of rolling weed in paper like a cigarette, putting it into a pipe (a bubbler is a hand-blown glass pipe that with a pouch for water) or a bong and then smoking it, there are other methods teens are get high.

  • Vaporizing it: The process involves heating up the weed in a vaporizer (a variety of different kinds are available at various price points) to a temperature below its burning point but still high enough to vaporize for inhalation. The Internet provides the directions and YouTube offers the video version which advise teens that “varporizing marijuana is “safer” alternative to smoking marijuana traditionally” and there is no smoke!
  • Eating it: Not new, but still a hot trend is baking the pot in brownie or cookie batter (or most anything else), and then eating it for a quick high.
  • “Hookahing” it: Teens add marijuana to flavored tobacco, which can disguise the scent, and then smoke the combination (or pot alone) in a hookah.

Dangers: Marijuana is the most commonly abused illegal drug by teens. Do note the word “illegal” – a record could seriously jeopardize your child’s job prospects or future. The new marijuana is also stronger. There are more than 400 chemicals in marijuana, which stay in the body for a few weeks and the impact of those chemicals on a teen’s body and brain is a big unknown.  There are also many synthetic varieties available.

Spice/K2 (Blaze, Bliss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Pulse, Hush, Mystery, Earthquake, Serenity, Red X Dawn Stinger, Zohia, Summit, Genie) 

Spice or K2 is a type of synthetic marijuana which is a mixture of herbs or plant materials that have been sprayed with artificial chemicals. The chemicals in these products are very potent and content can vary greatly. The goal is to try and create the safe effects of THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana.

Teens generally smoke this drug so signs to look for include: a strong clove smell, pipes or other drug paraphernalia, or a coffee grinder (which may be yours but has a different smell other than coffee) used to grind the product into a fine powder. Many teens are under the assumption that because Spice is synethetic it is harmless, and nothing could be further from true. K2 or Spice is solid online and in convenience stores and often marketed as incense.

Dangers: Physical symptoms of use are troubling: a loss of physical control (including seizures, or a lack of pain response), paranoia, and dysphoria. At this point the long-term effects are unknown. Calls to poison control centers for exposure to this drug have doubled in the past two years.

The Choking Game (Fainting Game, Pass Out Game, Space Monkey, Flatliner, Airplaning, California-Choke, Cloud-Nine, Space-Cowboy, and Black Out)

The basic game rule of the Choking Game is “asphyxiation” or for a child to get a desired ‘floaty’, ‘tingling’ or ‘high’ sensation achieved by shutting off oxygen/blood to the brain. It is a lethal activity and glorified in YouTube tapes. Techniques to achieve a high include pressing the thumb or hand tightly on the neck; tying a rope, necktie, belt around the neck; hyperventilating by holding the breath “hard”; or putting a plastic bag over the head until you become unconscious. A secondary ‘high’ is achieved when pressure is released and oxygen/blood returns to the brain.

The Choking Game can be “played” as a dare game in a group and has become popular at slumber parties. Kids take turns “choking” each other or another kid gives a hard bear hug from behind or applies pressure under the child’s heart (usually with the head of the other participant) until the victim passes out. Many kids say they actually become addicted to the feeling repeating the thrill again and again.

Dangers: The “game” has lethal consequences. Brain damage or permanent neurological disabilities due to the lack of oxygen is a possibility and each year is responsible for a large number of juvenile deaths.

Stay educated! Keep talking to your child. 

Michele Borba, Ed.D.

I am an educational psychologist, writer and TODAY contributor. For latest news and tips on parenting and education follow my blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check or look for me on twitter @MicheleBorba

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