Teenagers are incredibly resourceful, and even if your teen has demonstrated a lack of motivation on matters in school, it doesn't mean he or she is without intelligence. When teens are bored, troubled or just in search of something that will let them fit in, parents might be surprised at the types of schemes and innovation that can come to light. That's especially true for teens seeking to get drunk.
After school specials and family television programming for decades have illustrated how teens who want to get drunk can usually find a way to lay hands on alcohol. Usually these stories unfold with teenagers gaining access to liquor or beer via parent fridges, home bars, friends, fake IDs or stealing. Awareness of these avenues of teen drinking might have made parents more vigilant in protecting the liquor, but did you realize adolescents don't need traditional alcoholic beverages to get 'drunk'? Chances are, there are common items in your home right now that will provide an equal high.
What items besides alcoholic beverages can get teens drunk?
The medicine cabinet, the utility closet and the under-sink cabinet can all be supply stations for teens seeking an alcohol-style high.
Cough and cold medicines are a major culprit, and teens can mix the syrups with other ingredients to create a cocktail, making the practice seem even more mainstream by naming their creations just as bartenders name drink mixes. DXM, which is an ingredient found in such medications, can be abused in this fashion. It's present in medications such as Nyquil, Robitussin, Delsym and some Vick's formulas. While pharmacies often regulate who can buy these over-the-counter drugs and how much they can purchase at a time, teens can easily access the substances via the medicine cabinets of friends or family or through online pharmacies and dark web sites. Alongside cold medicine in the cabinet, teens might also find mouthwash or other high-alcohol content liquids. Teens chasing a high might chug these items or mix them with other beverages such as soda.
Moving out of the bathroom, teens can find household cleansers and sanitizers that contain alcohol or other chemicals that produce a drunk-feeling state. Parents might not think their teen would ever drink something so dangerous, but peer pressure and adolescent stress can lead even seemingly well-adjusted and smart kids to make these choices.
Teenagers might turn to inhalant abuse instead of alcohol
If alcohol isn't readily available or teens decide that drinking from the under-sink cleaning supplies sounds dangerous, they might turn to inhalant abuse to get a high. Some teens see inhalant abuse as a safer alternative, because they aren't ingesting ingredients, though you should know that sniffing chemicals can be as harmful to the body as swallowing them.
Teens can get high from sniffing fumes and sprays associated with paint thinner, glue, whipping cream refills and spray canisters, hair spray, nail polish remover, spray paint and gasoline, among numerous other things. The symptoms associated with inhalant abuse are very similar to that of alcohol abuse, but even a small dose of the wrong inhalant can be physically dangerous — and possibly even deadly — for teens. Still, many youth brave the dangers — if they are even aware of them — because inhalants offer such an accessible, inexpensive high when compared to drugs and alcohol.
What can parents do?
The best steps in protecting your child are always proactive. Start talking about chemical dependence and substance abuse topics early, ensuring your child understands the serious ramifications of getting high. Make sure they know that legal, physical, mental and social consequences exist, even if the substance being used is something that seems harmless, such as glue.
As a parent, educate yourself on the signs of teen substance abuse disorder. You can't keep your growing and maturing adolescent locked up safely from the world, but you can arm them with knowledge and back them up by being a present, aware parent. The Teen Treatment Center blog has covered topics such as identifying signs of opioid abuse in the past, so those posts are a good place to start if you want to know what drug and alcohol abuse might look like in a teen. See our parent resources page for more information on combatting teen addiction.
If you do suspect that your teen is drinking, using drugs or getting high from household chemicals, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Substance abuse and addiction are very serious issues that usually require intervention from trained, caring professionals. Yes, teens do act out and experiment as they grow, and finding your son or daughter with a beer at a party doesn't necessary mean they're struggling with addiction. However, if you are noticing continued behavior changes or find your teen experimenting with dangerous substances and putting his or her life at risk, call The Teen Treatment Center for more informationabout rehab programs and how you can help your child. (844)319-5239.