Teen Drug Use: It All Starts With Smoking

Teen Drug Use
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Trying to stay informed about the illicit temptations thrown at kids can leave a parent—or anyone working with children—begging for mercy. I’m in that boat as I try to keep up with the latest teenage drug trends.

Seeking information and guidance, I turned to Sheriff Michael Nielsen of Boone County, Indiana, where my hometown is located, for a crash course in teenage drug use. Sheriff Nielsen graciously shared some basic facts he learned while working with teens and young adults in our community.

“It all starts with tobacco use,” Sheriff Nielsen said. “Smoking leads to alcohol, which leads to marijuana, which leads to harder drugs.” The Sheriff is candid about his former addiction to tobacco and its hold on people who use it. He adds, “As strong as tobacco is, just think of … the power drugs have over people.”

To better understand the issue, here are the drugs of choice for kids and teens:

  1. Electronic cigarettes. Sheriff Nielsen believes that much of teen drug addiction starts with smoking—and e-cigarettes fall in that category. In fact, as of August 2016, the Food and Drug Administrationbegin to apply and enforce key provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act as it relates to the sales, marketing, and manufacturing of e-cigarettes.1
  1. Heroin.Classified as an opioid, com says, ”Heroin abuse is one of the fastest growing and deadliest forms of drug abuse in the United States. After declining in the ‘80s and ‘90s, rates of heroin abuse have been steadily climbing for the last decade.”2
  1. Hookah(aka “vape”). Again, drug abuse often begins with smoking. The CDC says, “Hookahs are water pipes that are used to smoke specially made tobacco that comes in different flavors, such as apple, mint, cherry, chocolate, coconut, licorice, cappuccino, and watermelon.”3 Vaping includes inhaling vapors that contain no nicotine or some level of tobacco.
  1. Hydrocodone.From com: “Zohydro ER and Hysingla ER are extended-release forms of hydrocodone that are used for around-the-clock treatment of severe pain. Extended-release hydrocodone is not for use on an as-needed basis for pain.”4
  1. Methamphetamine.This highly addictive, crystal-type substance can be taken in several different forms, including smoking, swallowing, injecting,and Sheriff Nielsen says of meth, “We don’t see a whole lot of methamphetamine manufacturing in this county, but rather see it coming from Mexico.” He adds, “Most is Mexican cartel driven.”
  1. Marijuana(aka “pot,” “weed”). From the National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Marijuana use remained steady among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders over the past 5 years despite softening of perceived risks.”5 Sheriff Nielsen shared that there is a strain of marijuana coming from Mexico that is especially potent and is causing devastating side effects among those unwittingly using it.
  1. Methadone.Another opioid, methadone is used for pain relief as part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs and is only available from certified pharmacies.6 It is a protected substance prescribed to parents or other adults, who should keep it out of the hands of kids.
  1. Opioids.Opioids are a class of drugs that help reduce pain. From the National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs.” Regarding addicts use of opioids versus heroine, Sheriff Nielsen says, “A hydrocodone pill on the street will cost $15–$20, but a hit of heroine you can do for $10.”7 Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that while teenage drug use has actually declined in recent years, “Opioids—primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin—are the main driver of overdose deaths.”1 According to the CDC’s website, “Opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths in 2014 and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 2000.”8
  1. Spice(aka “K2”). Also referred to as “synthetic marijuana,” spice is now illegal. Sheriff Nielsen says of spice, “I’ve seen people who’ve smoked spice who are totally out of their mind … it’s that bad.” com describes spice as “a chemical-rich marijuana substitute [that] helped marijuana fans get high without the fear of failing a drug test. But teens began filling hospital beds after smoking it, and the government cracked down on its distribution. Reports show that people who smoke spice have an alarming risk of addiction.”9 Sheriff Nielsen added that even though spice is illegal, it is still sold in some head shops.

For more information about the drugs that teens are using, please refer to these sites:

  • DrugRehab.com offers additional information about each of these addictive substances and others as well, including street names, physical and psychological dependence, and legal status.
  • National Institute on Drug Abusedetails various studies and trends in drug use.
  • Drugs.com offers insight into all aspects of a variety of types of drugs, be they prescription, nonprescription, or illegal. This site includes a search box for locating information about specific drugs.


Sheriff Michael Nielsen: http://www.boonecountyindianasheriff.com/



1  http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/e-cigarettes-and-lung- health.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

2 https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/drugs/heroin/

3 http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/tobacco_industry/hookahs/


5 https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends

6 https://www.drugs.com/methadone.html

7 https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/prescription-drugs/opioids/what-are-opioids

8 http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html

9 https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/drugs/spice-k2/



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