Top drugs abused by high school seniors

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Prescription Drugs Have Led To A Crazy Increase In Heroin Use



The U.S. is in the midst of a drug crisis. Opioid abuse has swept the nation and is at an all-time high. OxyContin, America's best-selling prescription pain reliever — and one of the most abused — has found its way into high schools.

Though the National Institutes of Health's Monitoring the Future survey shows promising trends — for example, alcohol, cigarette and illicit drug abuse by high schoolers has declined over the past two decades — the rate of marijuana use remains relatively high and stagnant. As of 2014, nearly 34 percent of high school seniors had said they used marijuana in the past year.

SEE ALSO: What opioid painkillers do to your body and brain

Additionally, though rates have not necessarily increased, many high schoolers still abuse prescription drugs such as Adderall and Vicodin.

People are most likely to begin abusing drugs during adolescence and young adulthood. By senior year, 70 percent of high schoolers have tried alcohol, 50 percent have tried an illegal drug, 40 percent have smoked a cigarette and approximately 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a non-medical purpose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Not only does this hurt high schoolers in the short term by unnecessarily altering their body physiology and taking time away from academics or sports, it can affect them in the long term by stunting their developing brains.

So what drugs do high schoolers abuse most? Using data from the NIH, the analysts at HealthGrove found out.

Note: In the case of ties, the drugs are listed alphabetically.

#14. Salvia

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 1.9%

Salvia is a herb found in Mexico and the psychoactive ingredient, salvinorin A, causes short-lived hallucinations. While it is currently not illegal, the long-term effects are not known and many of its short-term effects raise safety concerns.

#14. Inhalants

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 1.9%

Inhalants are also known on the street as "laughing gas," "snappers" and "whippets," to name a few. These are chemicals found in common products that people can intentionally inhale to get high.

#13. Ritalin

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 2.0%

Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant and can be used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. However, potentially negative side effects include irregular heartbeat, panic, psychosis and delirium.

#12. Cocaine

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 2.5%

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant and is a powerful stimulant — it produces euphoria, increased energy and talkativeness. People most frequently inhale it in its powdered form or dissolve it in water and inject it into the bloodstream. Potentially dangerous effects include include raised heart rate, elevated blood pressure and overdose.

#10. Sedatives

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 3.6%

Sedatives are substances that reduce irritability and excitement. At high doses, sedatives can lead to slurred speech and slow reflexes.

#10. MDMA (Ecstasy)

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 3.6%

This synthetic drug alters mood and perception by producing feelings of pleasure, high energy and increased empathy.

#9. OxyContin

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 3.7%

OxyContin is an opioid pain medication that has a high risk for addiction and dependence. Some even argue that Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the producer of OxyContin, started America's opioid epidemic.

#8. Hallucinogens

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 4.2%

This group of drugs works to alter one's thoughts, sensations and awareness of the surrounding area. Some drugs in this group include LSD, peyote and PCP.

#7. Vicodin

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 4.4%

Vicodin treats pain and has a high risk for addiction and dependence. In higher-than-recommended amounts, hydrocodone (one of the active ingredient) can slow or stop your breathing.

#6. Cough Medicine

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 4.6%

Both over-the-counter and prescription cough medicines have active ingredients that are mind-altering at high, concentrated amounts. The two commonly abused medicines are dextromethorphan and promethazine-codeine cough syrup.

#5. Tranquilizers

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 4.7%

Many anti-anxiety and antipsychotic drugs fall under the category of tranquilizers. These work to induce calmness in individuals. Valium and Xanax are two of the most common tranquilizing drugs.

#4. Synthetic Marijuana

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 5.2%

Initially created for use in cannabinoid research, synthetic cannabinoids have hit the streets and are referred to as "synthetic marijuana," for the plant from which the psychoactive substance is derived. Though often marketed as safe, legal alternatives to marijuana, these synthetic derivatives may affect the brain more powerfully due to increased potency.

#3. Adderall

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 7.5%

Doctors often prescribe Adderall to treat attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy, but some people without these disorders use it in an attempt to increase cognitive function.

#2. Amphetamines

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 7.7%

Amphetamines are a type of drug that stimulates the central nervous system. Drugs used to treat attention deficit disorder are often amphetamines.

#1. Marijuana/Hashish

Percent of Seniors Who Have Used in Past Year: 34.9%

Hashish and marijuana are both cannabis products. Hashish contains a higher density of the psychoactive chemicals and is made from the sap of the plant, while marijuana typically refers to the dried flower buds. Both are illegal under federal law, however, individual states are passing initiatives to legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana to individuals 21 years old and over.

Research These Drugs on HealthGrove

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Top drugs abused by high school seniors
Photo credit: Multnomah County Sheriff
Photo credit: Multnomah County Sheriff
Photo credit: Multnomah County Sheriff
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