No mom wants to admit that her precious offspring would ever use illicit drugs. Unfortunately, the
National Institute on Drug Abuse reports, “Most people use drugs for the first time when they are teenagers. There were just over 2.8 million new users of illicit drugs in 2013, or about 7,800 new users per day. Over half (54.1 percent) were under 18 years of age.” Before you start to panic, the numbers are a bit less frightening when you consider that only about 30% of 8th, 10th and 12th graders used drugs last year and that number is steadily declining. Marijuana remains the most commonly used illegal substance.

Of course, 30% is still too many and it’s vital that parents be aware of how to recognize the signs of drug use. These days, there are so many new street drugs that it makes the days of cocaine, crack and heroin seem like a quaint, simpler time. Now we’ve got endless designer drugs made from mysterious (and sometimes extremely dangerous) combinations of chemicals that make their effects very unpredictable. Every time one is made illegal, they just alter the recipe and change the name so law enforcement is usually playing catch-up.

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And moms, if you don’t stay on top of all the crazy names and shapes, your kids could be talking about them — and even taking them — right in front of you and you’d never know. This past Halloween the Jackson, Mississippi Police Department issued a warning about Ecstasy tablets that look exactly like colorful candies. If those fell out of your kid’s backpack you wouldn’t think twice!

Flakka, also known as Gravel and similar to Bath Salts, is the latest street drug that’s been making headlines. It’s incredibly easy to overdose and the effects are sort of like cocaine and methamphetamine if they were on cocaine or meth. Hulk-like strength, violent behavior, delirium and body temperature spikes are just a few and even small doses can cause lasting brain and kidney damage.


Spice, or K2, has too many other names to list here. It’s a form of synthetic marijuana that’s been around for a few years. It’s especially popular with teens because it’s labeled as “herbal”, it’s still legal, easy to get and very cheap. Although Spice is meant to feel like marijuana but it can also cause severe anxiety, vomiting and even strokes.

Triple C, also known as Skittles, is simply OTC cough medicine. The C is for Coricidin, but the main ingredient, DXM, is what provides the high and that’s in many brands of cough medicine. When teens take more than the recommended dose, they can feel dizzy, numb and disoriented. An overdose can be extremely dangerous, especially since most cough medicines also contain other cold medications.


N Bomb, 251, Smiles or GNOME, are just a few of the names for this hallucinogen which is similar to LSD. It can cause hallucinations, seizures, extremely high blood pressure, respiratory failure and many other frightening and life-threatening conditions.

For more information about illicit drugs, how to talk to your kids about drugs or what to do when you suspect your child is using them, check out these resources.

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Stop Medicine Abuse
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Foundation for a Drug-Free World