Helping Teen’s Parents Understand Synthetic Drugs

Unlike bell bottoms and clogs that debuted in the 1970s and made their return in the late 1990s, drugs that teens experiment with are not the “same old stuff” that was used several decades ago. Parents of teens may suspect teenage drug use among their children, but need to know that teens in 2011 and beyond may be using new types of harmful, more dangerous drugs.


K2, or "fake pot" has been outlawed by the DEA

New Synthetic Drugs on the Market

In the “old days,” teens would experiment with naturally grown drugs like marijuana, and then possibly get into harder drug use with cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine. While some teens continue using these drugs, many teens are turning to synthetic drugs.

What are Synthetic Drugs?

Synthetic drugs come in the form of “fake pot,” “fake cocaine,” herbal incense and bath salts, to name a few. The synthetic drugs are known for giving the same high, or even a high many more times as strong, as smoking marijuana and using cocaine and ecstasy. These synthetic materials are easy to find, and typically legal to sell. Teens do not need a drug dealer to find synthetic drugs, as many head shops selling pipes, drug paraphernalia, and hemp will sell bath salts and herbal incense as well. Synthetic drugs run a higher risk of injury and hospitals have seen several emergency room visits, cases of paranoia, poisoning cases and even fatalities resulting in synthetic drug use this year.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently ruled at least five synthetic compounds as illegal (including K2, or fake pot),  but synthetic drug manufacturers find ways around it. As the DEA continues to try to outlaw all synthetic drugs, manufacturers continue to find unique synthetic compounds not yet prohibited and sell them as “bath salts” to a growing customer base.

Watch a CBS news story about the Rise and Dangers of Synthetic Drug Use.

Read a NY Times Article about Synthetic Drugs that have Caused Health Problems, Death.

Testing Teens for Suspected Drug Use

If you suspect that your teen may be experimenting with drugs, it’s important to know what drug tests need to be performed. A standard 5-panel or even 10-panel drug test will trace traditional drugs in their system like meth, weed, cocaine, opiates and more; but a standard drug test will not catch synthetic drug use. Many parents have walked out of lab testing facilities, or even purchased drug testing kits from local pharmacies, and been confused and concerned that their teen’s drug test didn’t indicate drug use. In many cases, it’s because the teen was not tested for synthetic drugs.

In addition to testing for the traditional drugs, parents suspecting drug use must test for synthetics, too. Urine tests can detect some synthetic compounds, as well as oral fluids tests, too. It’s important to run all of the tests to determine what drugs each teen is using.

Stop Teen Drug Use

Teenage drug use leads to behavioral problems, possible overdoses, permanent health issues, and even school drop-outs. Concerned parents can stay ahead of the game by staying informed of popular teen drugs and knowing what is on the market, influencing their teens. But don’t worry, you’re not alone in this battle. We’re here to help, inform and support parents to keep teens off drugs.

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