Household Drugs Are Increasingly Riskier Than “Street” Drugs With Teens

Posted on March 19th, 2015

Adolescents today are finding the ability to alter or impair their normal functions through the use of drugs that are readily accessible to them in their own homes. Unfortunately, this is an all too common, overlooked and potentially deadly problem among youth, beginning at much younger ages than ever. Movies, social media, and the large media focus on general drug trade have showcased that the primary drugs affecting our youth are heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. As the youth of our community realize the crackdown, negative stigma, health risks, and potential criminal ramifications of using these publicized drugs, they have begun to turn to “household” drugs that are more readily available, accepted, and legal to possess. However, they may not realize that the repercussions of using these drugs can be just as severe.

These household drugs are available to our teens by “huffing” gasoline or ingesting nutmeg, paints, nitrous oxide cylinders, cold medicines, and keyboard cleansers, to name a few. Many other drugs are readily available at their fingertips in the medicine cabinets of family and friends, through various prescriptions or over the counter medicines. Since abuse of these drugs is usually unknown, when the youth needs immediate medical attention due to an overdose or adverse reaction the responding emergency services struggle to determine the cause and source of the negative reaction the patient is experiencing. As a result, much needed immediate medical treatment is delayed.

The abuse of such drugs has become so accepted and available to anyone that our youth only has to inquire on the internet or watch a few YouTube videos to understand the experience that a particular substance at home might provide them. For instance, dextromethorphan (DXM) is found in many over the counter anti-tussive cold medications such as Robitussin and Coricidin Cough and Cold. Overuse of such medicines may cause effects commonly referred to as “Robo-Tripping,” and the street names for such accepted drugs are DXM, Skittles, or Triple C. Often youth believe since it is available without a prescription, the potential for harm is less, and it is labeled with a lesser stigma than the “heavy drugs”.

Inhalants essentially displace the oxygen within the lungs resulting in a virtual hallucinating effect. These drugs can cause brain damage, cause freezing injury both internal and external, as well as putting the user at risk of over expanding the internal organs too quickly. Death from suffocation can occur by replacing oxygen in the lungs with the chemical, and then in the central nervous system, so that breathing ceases.

I advise parents to be aware of physical, emotional, and mental changes and familiarize yourself with signs and symptoms that are not normal of your teen. Keep in mind that kids often use more than one substance, which can create varying effects that may not indicate one specific drug reaction or can create a synergistic affect.

You can help reduce the availability of household drugs to your teen by storing your medicine in a locked container or other unexpected locations. Take inventory of any risky items you may have in your garage and store them elsewhere as needed. Reach out to relatives and the parents of your teen’s friends and ask them to do the same. Talk with your teen about the negative effects of both household and street drugs, and partner with your teen to create a fun, drug-free environment at home for your teen and his / her friends.


What other types of household drugs should parents know about, that weren’t mentioned in this article?

What solutions can you share with other parents regarding safeguarding these household drugs?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Would you like additional guidance in this area? Los Gatos Teen Therapy provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.

3 thoughts on “Household Drugs Are Increasingly Riskier Than “Street” Drugs With Teens

  1. Lindsay Smith

    These drugs are really dangerous, but because we don’t expect our teens to be using household products as drugs, there are many parents who don’t even know to look for this. Thank you for helping to make our readers aware of what to look for and why it is so dangerous! In addition to regular household products, we also have to stay aware of the possibility of teens using our prescription drugs. The prescription drug drop off that is held every couple months in Los Gatos is a great way to safely dispose of unused prescription medication.

    1. FieldJamie

      Great point on the prescription drug drop off! Anyone who is interested contact the Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police Department for the next upcoming date and location. The stigma and perception of harmful effects of the substances that I mentioned is often minimized. It is important to remain mindful of what potentially harmful substances are so readily available to our youth.

  2. Carol Satterlee

    I held off on responding to this entry because I was trying to imagine what it’s like “today” to raise kids in a time when they have so much information at their fingertips (good and bad). And as I empathize for younger parents standing in your shoes, it is this… Don’t be afraid to educate yourselves about what preteens and teens are exposed to today. It’s not about using Jamie’s information above and raising kids and living in fear. Rather it’s about becoming knowledgable and resourceful.

    All the contributors in this blog series is now a resource for you! Lindsay has created a community of professionals invested in supporting teens and their parents in what could be very unexpected and undesired experiences of parenting responsibilities and teen life. Raise your kids with eyes wide open; set aside the fear-based thinking of “That doesn’t apply to me or my kids” or “That would never happen to my kids.”

    If/when teens struggle and the unexpected is a result (i.e., substance abuse, depression, anxiety, cutting, eating disorders, etc.) it’s not about looking for blame or focusing on what may be “unacceptable” behaviors or fearful about what others may think. Rather it’s your willingness and desire to help them figure out what’s underneath it all. It’s about reaching out to professionals who can guide you and your teen to safety, health & happiness.

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