Sold as herbs, incense, bath salts and even plant—food the latest substances used and abused by teens sound innocuous. But make no mistake, says a Menninger Clinic addiction expert, they are drugs.
"So many new and potentially dangerous drugs arrive on the street almost every day, it is hard to keep up," says Richard Capriola, LCD, a licensed addictions counselor with The Menninger Clinic's Adolescent Treatment Program. "But because parents play an important role in getting their kids off of drugs and alcohol, it is important that they keep tabs on the constantly evolving drug scene."
Popular drugs marketed under deceptive sounding names include:
Synthetic marijuana: Sold as incense, "Spice" and "K2," synthetic marijuana mimics the look and the high of marijuana, but is more potent. The drug may cause dangerously elevated blood pressure, pale skin, vomiting, severe and potentially life threatening hallucinations and, in some cases, seizures. In February 2011, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) used temporary emergency powers to declare some of the chemicals in synthetic marijuana illegal. However, by constantly changing the formula of their products, manufacturers skirt the law and sell them legally.
Bath salts: Deceptively sold as "bath salts" or "plant food," these products are powerful psychotropic substances containing the drugs mephedron (M-Cat) or methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), which produce hallucinations and stimulate the body. They come in capsules, tablets or white power that can be swallowed, snorted or injected. Side effects include paranoia, insomnia, addiction, rapid heart rate and suicidal thoughts. Based on increasing reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement agencies, the DEA issued an emergency action in 2011 to make bath salts illegal.
Salvia: Marketed as an ancient and natural way to have psychedelic experiences, salvia is an herb in the mint family. The drug gives users a quick, but short high, when chewed, smoked or taken as a tincture (a medicinal extract in an alcohol solution). Because salvia decreases the ability to interact with one's surroundings, the drug has prompted concern about the dangers of driving under its influence. While the DEA has designated it a drug of concern, salvia is not illegal, and can be purchased online or at head shops.
For more about commonly abused substances and drugs, visit The National Institute for Drug Abuse.