1) Alcohol: 1 in 2 teens in the United States used alcohol in the last year. Perhaps the most commonly abused psychoactive substance, alcohol is responsible for 85,000 deaths in the United States every year (DrugWarFacts.Org, 2011).
2) Tobacco: Another legal psychoactive substance, Tobacco is highly addictive and frequently abused. 1 in 4 teens uses tobacco each month (The Partnership, 2011). Due to the toxic ingredients, 435,000 deaths are attributed to its use annually, in the United States.
3) Marijuana: This drug derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant, is used by 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. It can cause memory and learning problems, slowed reaction time, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and depersonalization. Due to some carcinogenic ingredients, it has also been linked to cancer.
4) Prescription Pain Relievers: Easily accessible in mom’s or grandma’s medicine cabinet, 1 in 5 teens abuses prescription painkillers like Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet, Codeine, and Oxycontin. Depending on the type, prescription painkillers, when abused, are chemically similar to heroin and crack and can have the same deadly effects.
5) Inhalants: Also available around the house, these noxious chemicals such as paint thinners, nail polish remover, glues, and even whipped cream aerosol can be abused. Using inhalants can cause death on the first use. They do incredible damage to body organs, including the brain. The damage, if survived, can be lasting or permanent. 1 in 6 teens in the U.S. have abused inhalants.
6) Cough medicine: Teenagers often get their start on cheap and accessible psychoactive drugs like cough syrup and cold medicine. While safe when used as directed, cough medicine is abused by 1 in 8 teens. When used in excessive amounts, it can cause anything from abdominal pain and nausea to liver damage.
7) Ecstasy/MDMA: These popular “party drugs” are abused by 1 in 8 teens in the U.S. While the sought-after effect is pleasure and a feeling of closeness and “love,” it can cause liver and heart failure and even death. Also, the purity of this drug is often suspect, being combined with other dangerous drugs like methamphetamines.
8) Cocaine/Crack: Cocaine generally comes in white powder, while crack is a version of the same drug that looks like little crystals. 1 in 9 teens abuses crack or cocaine in the U.S. Heart attacks, strokes, and seizures are common side effects. In addition, some individuals die on the first use.
See Part 2 of this article for the other most commonly abused drugs in the U.S.
DrugWarFacts.Org (2011). Annual Causes of Death in the United States. Retrieved February 15, 2011 from http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/Causes_of_Death.
The Partnership at Drugfree.org (2011). Drug Guide; Information for over 40 commonly-abused drugs. Retrieved January 30, 2011 from http://www.drugfree.org/drug-guide.