In the United States, over 96,000 people died from drug overdose between March 2020 and March 2021. Alarming, isn’t it? Even more disturbing is that this number has only gotten higher over the past decade. Worst yet, the rise in deaths due to overdose has almost doubled in 2019-2020.

Substance abuse and teens shouldn’t even be in the same sentence. But put peer pressure and easy accessibility of these substances together, and you have the perfect recipe for substance abuse to happen.

Left uncontrolled, substance abuse in teenagers may lead to serious physical, mental, and emotional problems. It must be nipped in the bud through proper diagnosis and understanding what you’re up against by knowing these drugs.


Substance Abuse and Teens: Types of Drugs They Prefer

These are the types and examples of substances that teens commonly use:


  • Alcohol is probably the most commonly abused substance. It’s readily available in stores everywhere, and even if minors aren’t allowed to purchase it, they still manage to find ways to buy them.
  • A change in behavior and mood are the typical effects of using alcohol. It also messes with the user’s coordination, making them slower and unable to think clearly.


  • Most young people who were misusing illegal substances preferred marijuana.  However, since its legalization, usage has dropped, probably due to its accessibility and decriminalization.
  • Marijuana can cause the user to feel euphoric or sleepy, depending on its strain.


  • Cocaine is the second most used drug after marijuana. Cocaine’s effects are short-lived but so powerful that the user will often look for its high as soon as it’s over, leading to addiction.
  • It can cause the user’s senses to heighten and even trigger paranoia. Using it long-term can lead to a variety of diseases like lung disease.

Prescription Drugs

  • Prescription drugs like oxycodone and Vicodin are commonly abused by teens. These pain killers are often used in conjunction with substances like alcohol.
  • Research shows that most teens find these drugs in their home medicine cabinets.


  • MDMA is a synthetic drug. It is commonly called ecstasy or molly and is often taken with alcohol or marijuana.
  • This synthetic drug alters one’s mood and awareness.


  • Hallucinogens are drugs like LSD (commonly known as acid) and magic mushrooms.
  • These drugs cause the user to go on “trips” in which their reality becomes distorted.

Spice or K2

  • Spice or K2 is often called “Synthetic marijuana,” despite it being nothing like marijuana. This is a highly addictive drug. Ever since its ingredients have been flagged as illegal by the government, the usage rate among teens has declined.
  • This drug causes the user to experience confusion, hallucinations, vomiting, etc.
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Over-the-counter substances

  • Cold syrups are one of the most commonly abused substances, especially those that contain dextromethorphan (DXM) and promethazine-codeine.
  • These syrups when taken above the recommended dosage can cause the user to feel relaxed and euphoric.

Highlighting these commonly used drugs must have raised some warning bells in you. Oftentimes, when we watch the news and see that a teen has died due to a drug overdose, we think that it’s because they are regular users of these substances. The truth of the matter is that it’s not always about the frequency of drug use, it’s also about authenticity.

Some sources say that fatal drug overdoses have occurred because teens procured substances that were laced with deadly amounts of fentanyl. For example, in Northern California, a drug dealer was sentenced to eight (8) years in prison for lacing pills with fentanyl. Two people suffered from drug overdose and one person dies because of the fentanyl-laced pills.

What’s worrying is that teens can access  these substances easily because of their availability on the internet. There is a real fear that teens will find themselves on the wrong path because of this.

Make sure that your teens are safe by knowing these substances and having the right tools to detect them properly.

If you want to learn more about substance abuse and teens, click here.