Quiz: Drug & Alcohol Facts You Need to Know

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a health observance linking teens to facts about drugs.

Complete this quiz as a family to see how much you know about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Then, read on for further education on the consequences and potential health effects.

  1. Nicotine and other drugs can harm the developing adolescent brain. At what age does the brain stop developing?  Learn more about understanding the teen brain.
    1. 10 years old
    2. 13 years old
    3. 18 years old
    4. 25 years old
  2. How many emergency room visits are made each year in the U.S. for injuries related to alcohol?
    1. 10,000-25,000
    2. 25,000-50,000
    3. 50,000-100,000
    4. >100,000
  3. True or false: Past-year misuse of Vicodin and OxyContin among 12th graders has increased.
  4. Teens are using vaping devices in record numbers. What exactly are they consuming when they vape?
    1. Nicotine
    2. Marijuana/hash oil
    3. Just flavoring
    4. All of the above
  5. True or false: binge drinking rates among 8th, 10th and 12th grade students has continued a downward trend in recent years.

 Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 Getting help

If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol, get help as soon as possible. Talk to an adult you trust― a parent, aunt or uncle, doctor, teacher, school counselor, or clergy member.

Download the answer quiz

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Teen Marijuana Use on The Rise: What Parents Should Know

By Dr. Jennie Gary, pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s, and Dr. Terez Yonan, adolescent medicine specialist at CHOC Children’s

Did you know that 45 percent of all high school seniors have tried marijuana? Marijuana use now exceeds cigarette use among high schoolers, according to a recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Despite the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in California, parents and teens should be aware that recreational use of marijuana is still illegal for ALL minors under 21 years old.

What does the legalization of marijuana mean for our children and teens? Youth will now have easier access to marijuana, possibly through relatives, friends, or the use of fake IDs. With these new laws now in effect, how your child or teenager views marijuana may change as well. As advertising for and usage of legal marijuana becomes more widespread in our communities, adolescents may be less likely to understand the real dangers of marijuana use.

Many people feel that using marijuana is safe, but there are serious concerns. Parents should be aware of signs of acute marijuana intoxication in teenagers. These include slurred speech, red eyes, dry mouth, increased appetite, and changes in mood such as euphoria or anxiety. Other problematic effects that can come with even occasional use include impaired judgment and slowed reaction time, which can lead to unintentional injury or motor vehicle accidents. Frequent use of marijuana can cause long-lasting effects including learning difficulties, impaired brain development, lower IQ, lung disease, addiction and mental health disorders. As medical providers, we worry about marijuana as even one time use of marijuana can trigger a psychotic break in someone with a genetic predisposition for mental illness.

Medical marijuana refers to the use of the marijuana plant or its extracts (called cannabinoids) to treat symptoms of certain illnesses, such as nausea in chemotherapy patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana itself as a medicine. However, there are currently two FDA-approved cannabinoid medications. For parents who use marijuana for medical or other purposes, it is important to always keep all marijuana and marijuana-containing products hidden in child-proof containers that are out of reach to help prevent accidental ingestions.

Talk with your middle school and high school-aged children about marijuana and other drugs. We encourage open and honest discussions between you and your child. In general, it is best to discuss general drug use scenarios and not to share your own experiences with drug use with your children. Be sure to speak to your child’s provider about screening for substance use if you have any concerns about your child.

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Synthetic Cannabinoids aka Synthetic Marijuana: What Parents Need to Know

In observance of National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, we spoke to Sgt. Phil McMullin, public information officer with Orange Police Department, on the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids and its rise in popularity among teens.

What are synthetic cannabinoids/marijuana?

Synthetic cannabinoids refer to a growing number of man-made, mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked (herbal incense) or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense).

What is in them?

Synthetic marijuana is a designer drug that does not contain marijuana but rather contains any of a variety of plants sprayed with laboratory-produced chemicals.

Synthetic cannabinoid products may also be contaminated with other drugs or toxic chemicals, such as synthetic cathinones (“bath salts” or “flakka”).

They contain powerful chemicals called cannabimimetics and can cause dangerous health effects.

Why are they called “cannabinoids”?

These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they act on the same brain cell receptors as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana.

Synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana” (or “fake weed”), and they are often marketed as “safe” legal alternatives to that drug.

What are the effects of synthetic cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoid products can be toxic. As a result, people who smoke these products can react with rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations.

Synthetic cannabinoids can affect brain function. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Confusion and concentration problems
  • Hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Breathing problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Heart attack, fast heart rate, high blood pressure, and stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Muscle damage

Case Reports:

In 2013, Colorado hospitals reported an increase in admissions to emergency departments from people using synthetic marijuana. Of the 127 patients, over half had rapid heart rate and high blood pressure, many had aggressive or violent behavior, agitation or confusion, 16 had to be admitted (10 to the intensive care unit), and one 15-year-old boy died.

In Florida, there was a report that two young siblings using Spice were taken to the emergency department because they were suffering from an “acute cerebral infarction,” otherwise known as a stroke. This report also talks about other patients coming in with heart attacks from using these substances.

The LA Times reported that in 2011 there were 29,000 emergency department visits nationwide from fake marijuana use, up from 11,000 in 2010.

Who is buying this drug?

A University of Michigan study revealed that from 2011 to 2013, 10.1 percent of high school seniors reported past-year use of synthetic cannabinoids.

The drug is the second most used illicit drug among high school seniors, behind marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

These drugs are popular with high school-aged teens, in part because they are easy to get and are marketed as “natural” and “harmless.”

In 2017 poison centers received reports of nearly 2,000 exposures to synthetic cannabinoids.

Is it legal?

The federal government has banned many specific synthetic cannabinoids

Makers of synthetic cannabinoids try to get around these laws by creating new products with different ingredients or by labeling them “not for human consumption.”

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Stimulants Abuse in Teens

By Sandy Merino and Jennifer Yen, clinical pharmacists at CHOC Children’s

With final exams right around the corner, teens will be tempted to turn to stimulants as they hope to cram in some last-minute late-night studying. Kids seem to be under more pressure now than ever before. Get to know the dangers of stimulant abuse to help your kids make smart decisions and stay healthy while performing under pressure.

These days, stimulants are only prescribed to treat a few health conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and rare cases of depression that have not responded to other treatments. Any time these drugs are taken in a way that is not intended, it is considered abuse.. This includes taking someone else’s prescription, taking the medication in ways other than prescribed, and taking the stimulant to get high. A basic understanding of stimulant abuse can help you as a parent protect your family and friends against it.

The Science Behind Stimulants

As the name suggests, prescription stimulants increase biochemical activity in the brain that can help boost alertness, attention and energy. The most common prescription stimulants are Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta. ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately ten percent of children between ages 4 and 17 years are diagnosed with ADHD, and about 60 percent of them take medication. When they are taken as prescribed they are generally safe and effective. Doctors prescribe these medications starting at low doses and then gradually increase them, monitoring for effectiveness and side effects. The lowest effective dose is then continued, and the child is monitored on a regular basis. When taken as prescribed, many of these children will experience a reduction in ADHD symptoms and an improvement their academic performance, behavior, social relationships, and self-esteem.

Unfortunately, stimulants can be abused, and often by friends and family. Did you know that almost ten percent of high school seniors admit to abusing ADHD medications in the past year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse? This number is as high as 35 percent among college students.

Pressure to perform tempts teens to turn to stimulants

Teens and young adults who abuse stimulants often do so for a better ability to concentrate, increased energy and more confidence. Academic pressures are the main trigger for teens and young adults to abuse stimulants, such as pulling all-nighters to study. What they might not realize, though, is that these drugs can be habit-forming when abused and can be dangerous when taken in high doses. Stimulants can speed up heart rate and blood pressure, and cause insomnia and anxiety. Although students expect stimulants to help their academic performance, studies have found that stimulants do not increase learning or thinking ability when taken by people who are not diagnosed with ADHD. Students who abuse prescription stimulants actually had lower GPAs in high school and college than those who didn’t abuse prescription stimulants, according to the NIH.  Although a late-night study session and some Adderall might seem like a good way to cram for exams, it actually doesn’t work, may hurt them in the short-term, and definitely won’t help them with their long-term goals.

While some teens turn to caffeine pills or Adderall medication believing it will help them focus and cram for school exams, others turn to energy drinks. Many teens aren’t aware of exactly how much caffeine they’re consuming in each energy drink. Although experts consider 200-300 mg of caffeine a day to be a moderate amount for adults, teens should limit their consumption to much less, about 100 mg per day. Meanwhile, many caffeinated drinks easily contain 80-160 mg of caffeine in one serving. Some popular energy drinks contain up to 240 mg per can. Teens consume caffeine in more places than they realize: hot chocolate, iced tea and non-cola soda all contain caffeine. Too much of it can lead to anxiety, dizziness and headaches.

Abusing stimulants to get high

While some teens abuse stimulants for academic performance, others may use them to get high. When stimulant medications are taken suddenly and in ways not prescribed, they can rapidly increase dopamine activity in the brain, causing a sense of euphoria, which can increase the risk of addiction. This effect on the body and brain is similar to the effect of illicit drugs. Prescription stimulants are normally meant to be taken by mouth in a pill form, but other ways of abusing them include crushing the tablets to snort or inject them. This can cause additional problems because inactive ingredients in the tablets can block small blood vessels, leading to severe damage to the heart, brain and other organs, not to mention the risks associated with intravenous drug abuse, such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Another form of prescription stimulants is a prescription patch, which contains an entire day’s worth of medication that is meant to release slowly over time through the skin. Some people abuse the patch by extracting the medication and consuming it all at once or by chewing on the patch. This is an extremely unsafe method of prescription drug abuse due to the more rapid method of exposure.

Be aware of the most commonly abused stimulants and their side effects:

Drug Street Name Medical Use Reason for abuse Adverse Effects
Amphetamines (Eg: Adderall and Dexedrine)

Methylphenidate (Eg: Ritalin and Concerta)

Skippy

The Smart Drug

Vitamin R

Bennies

Black Beauties

Roses

Hearts

Speed

Uppers

Lightening

Amped

Black/Blue Mollies

ADHD

Narcolepsy

Depression

Academic performance enhancement

To stay alert

Lose weight

Get high

 Decreased sleep

Decreased appetite

Sense of anger

Paranoia

Increase in blood pressure

Dangerously high body temperatures

Irregular heartbeat

Risk for seizures and stroke at high doses

If you or your family has ADHD medication at home, be aware that it may be of interest to friends and family. Keep a close eye on your supply, especially if you have other teens and young adults in the house. Always keep medication out of reach of children. Keep open lines of communication with your kids about the pressures they experience and healthy perspectives on drug abuse. If you notice any red flags like a rapidly dwindling medication supply or sudden increases in cash flow, talk to them about it.

If you notice some changes in your teen and suspect drug abuse, look out for red flags such as: insomnia, excessive weight loss, twitching, disinterest in their hobbies, memory problems, neglect of personal appearance, sudden disinterest in work, school, or family responsibilities, or change in spending habits (for example, money missing or sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation). If you notice or suspect signs of a drug problem in your teen, take action right away. Consult their primary care physician or school guidance counselor.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis and need to speak with someone immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK. This is a crisis helpline that can help with a variety of issues.

If you need information on treatment and available resources, speak to your child’s primary care doctor, or visit the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator, or the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.

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Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Teen Alcohol and Drug Use?

Each year, the National Institutes of Health observes National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week in an effort to dispel myths about alcohol and drug abuse, and educate teens on dangers of use and addition. Take this quiz to test your knowledge of alcohol and drug use among teens, including what may be a warning sign.

    1. Teens may abuse alcohol and drugs for a variety of reasons. Choose all that apply.
      1. Negative peer pressure
      2. Family tensions
      3. Access to cash, alcohol and drugs
      4. Trauma
      5. Pressure to perform at school, in the home, or in extracurricular activities
    2. True or false: One-third of high school students have consumed alcohol in the last 30 days.
    3. Cigarette-like devices have gained popularity in recent years. Which are true about the danger of e-cigarettes? Choose all that apply.
      1. E-cigarettes may sometimes contain less nicotine than conventional cigarettes, but the addictive substance is still present.
      2. Non-users can be affected by emissions through second- and third-hand exposure.
      3. E-cigarette and conventional cigarette use have comparable levels of exposure to formaldehyde (a carcinogen).
      4. Because using e-cigarettes mirrors the dangers of cigarette use, the best way to quit cigarettes is to promote alternatives including gums and patches.
    4. True or false: Over-the-counter medications are harmless since they do not require a physician visit or a prescription.
    5. In 2014, the nonmedical use of prescription drugs was highest among young adults. What can parents due to properly store medication in the home, helping prevent prescription drug abuse?
        1. Throw expired or unused prescription medications in the trash as soon as possible.
        2. Store prescription medications in a purse or nightstand, out of sight of kids and teens.
        3. Include education on the dangers of prescription drug abuse as part of your safe storage practices.

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