Other Misused Drugs

In this section: Alcohol | Cocaine | Club drugs | E-cigarettes | Bath salts | Inhalants

Alcohol & Underage Drinking

Sad young man surrounded by alcoholWidespread use of alcohol by teens is one of the leading health and safety concerns in the U.S. Kids drink for a variety of reasons. They may wish to be seen as "cool" to their friends. They may try alcohol as a way to help cope with major life changes, or to simply experiment with something they see their parents or other adults do. But teen drinking can be tragic, leading to increased risk-taking, possible brain and growth- development issues, binge drinking, vehicle accidents and, too often, death. 

According to the CDC, each year approximately 4,300 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking, including deaths from car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits for youth under the age of 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12-20 drink 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the U.S. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.

Teens are continually bombarded with messages that encourage the use of alcohol, and as a result many do. They view and hear a constant stream of advertising presented through all kinds of media. They pass by marketing displays and rows of spirits, wine and beer whenever they go to their local supermarket or warehouse store. While these messages may not be intended specifically for teens, they are hard for anyone to ignore. 

Long- and short-term effects from underage drinking include:

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Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant, native to South America. As a street drug, cocaine looks like a fine, white, crystal powder.

People typically snort cocaine powder through the nose, or rub it onto their gums. Others dissolve the powder in water and inject it into the bloodstream. Some people inject a combination of cocaine and heroin, called a speedball. Another popular method of use is to smoke cocaine that has been process to make a rock crystal (freebase cocaine or crack). The crystal is heated to produce vapors that are inhaled into the lungs.

Short-term health effects of cocaine include:
Long-term effects may include:

Although cocaine use may be up nationally, various statistics in Washington State do not reflect that trend. Deaths involving cocaine in King County declined in 2015; there were 55 cocaine-involved deaths that year, compared to 75 in 2014, and 64 in 2013.

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Club Drugs

The term "club drugs" refers to a wide variety of drugs often used a raves, nightclubs, or parties. These drugs include substances like MDMA (ecstasy), GHB (liquid ecstasy), ketamine (Special K), and rohypnol (roofies).

Different club drugs have different effects on your body. Some common effects include:

Because club drugs are illegal and often produced in makeshift laboratories, it is hard to know exactly what is in them, or how strong or dangerous they might be. Regular use of ecstasy can produce long-lasting, perhaps permanent damage to the brain's ability to think and store memories.

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Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices used to inhale a vapor or aerosol which typically, but not always, contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. Most e-cigarette devices have a cartridge or reservoir to hold the liquid solution that is vaporized and inhaled, a heating element, a power source like a battery, and a mouthpiece the person uses to inhale.

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used form of nicotine among youth in the U.S., and use of electronic cigarettes and vapor products are on the rise in this population. There a misconception among youth that e-cigarettes are safe to use, but, in reality, the health effects of these devices largely remain unknown. What we do know is that nicotine use at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.

In Washington State, according to the 2016 Healthy Youth Survey, 20% of 12th graders reported having used electronic cigarettes at least once in the past 30 days.

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Bath salts/Synthetic Cathinones

Bath salts are man-made drugs chemically related to cathinone, a stimulant found in khat, a plant commonly grown in East Africa and southern Arabia. Synthetic cathinones, like mephedrone (the cathinone most commonly found in bath salts), can be much stronger than the natural product, however, and, in some cases, very dangerous.

Bath salts typically come as a white or brown crystal-like powder, usually sold online or in drug paraphernalia stores ("headshops"). They often come in small foil packages or jars, and may be deceptively labeled as "not for human consumption" or described as "plant food," "jewelry cleaner," or even "phone screen cleaner." Some common bath salt product names include: flakka, boom, cloud nine, vanilla sky, and lunar wave. The powder is typically snorted, smoked, injected, or even sometimes mixed with water as a beverage.

Side effects of bath salts can be quite severe and include:

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Inhalants are invisible, volatile substances found in common household products, like glue, lighter fluid, markers, cleaning products, and even paint, that produce chemical vapors inhaled to induce mind-altering effects.

Though other substances can be inhaled, the term "inhalants" is used to describe these products because they are rarely, if ever, taken by any other route than inhalation.

Inhalants are breathed in through the nose and mouth in a variety of ways, including simply sniffing or snorting them, spraying or depositing them into a paper bag and then inhaling fumes from the bag, or "huffing" fumes from an inhalant-soaked rag.

Inhalants are often among the first drugs that youth use. According to the DEA, about 1 in 5 kids report having used inhalants at least once by the 8th grade. Inhalants are also one of the few substances abused more by younger children than by older ones.

Short-term side effects of using inhalants include:

Long-term side effects include:

Though some of the damaging effects to the body may be partially reversible after use is stopped, many of the effects from prolonged abuse are permanent.

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