10 Most Disturbing Teen Trends
Experts reveal the issues that parents should know about now
Cough Syrup and Soda
The narcotic drug codeine is found in the cough syrup bottles you likely have in your medicine cabinet—and kids can use it to get high, according to Stratyner, who has seen a rise in the practice of mixing up the drink, referred to as “sizzurp” or “purple drank.” A phenomenon popularized in some hip-hop music, cough syrup is traditionally mixed with a sugary soda like Sprite or Mountain Dew, and tends to suppress the respiratory system. Lil Wayne, who has admitted to abusing cough syrup in this way, was hospitalized in March for seizures after reportedly ingesting a high amount of codeine.
It’s surprising that anyone would want to experience strangulation intentionally, but this “game” is still common among teenagers. “Kids still do the choking game,” Weichman says, explaining that the aim is to experience a mild euphoria from a fainting spell. “It cuts off the air flow to the brain, causing cell death.” In 2008, the CDC identified 82 cases of probable deaths from 1995 to 2007 as a direct result of the game. Kids can inflict the strangulation on themselves, so look for signs like ropes tied to doors and bedposts, bloodshot eyes, major headaches and visible confusion after spending time alone.
You might remember the dangerous practice of “huffing” emerge years ago? “We’re starting to see it trend again, putting cleaning fluids on a rag and breathing it in,” says Stratyner, who explains how the chemicals mess with areas of the brain used for vital functions like decision-making. “It is unbelievably toxic.” Health consequences like liver damage, kidney damage and sudden death, among many others, are all possible with huffing.
It might be hard to believe, but alcohol enemas are an alarming new trend among teens and college kids. While it’s not common, it’s also not unheard of. “It’s shocking, but kids are doing it and it’s unbelievably deadly,” says Dr. Harris Stratyner, vice president of New York Clinical Regional Services at Caron Treatment Centers. He explains that pouring alcohol into the colon through a tube inserted in the rectum delivers alcohol directly into the bloodstream for a faster buzz. However, since the colon lacks the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase to break down ethanol so it isn’t as toxic, the body may be irreparably poisoned before the substance can make it to the liver to be processed.
Credit Card Theft
Ever wonder where those crazy charges come from on your credit card bill? Weichman says that a good portion of the time, it’s a teenage son or daughter. “Kids will take a cell phone picture of the credit card,” he explains. “It literally takes three seconds. They can create a new bank account; they can charge things.”
Proof that a calorie from one source is not the equivalent of a calorie from another—imagine getting nearly all your energy and nutrition from alcohol. Some college kids are. “This is big among college girls right now,” says Dr. Stratyner. “They won’t eat all day so they can consume large amounts of alcohol at night and not gain weight.” Stratyner says drinking on an empty stomach can throw off blood sugar levels and cause a dangerously strong state of intoxication, as well as a more powerful hangover. In addition, alcohol combined with malnutrition may further inhibit the body’s ability to get the necessary nutrients it needs to function.
High school and college kids are enamored of Snapchat, an app allowing them to send random photos to friends for one second or up to several seconds before the shot is lost forever—except it’s not really lost. “They’re sending anything and everything, even naked photos,” Weichman says. “And now kids are getting wiser, taking pictures with another camera or grabbing a screenshot of the photo.” If they’re not careful, a photo could end up in the hands of someone they may not want to have it.
High school students have come up with a crafty way to smoke unnoticed—while in the classroom. California-based licensed psychologist and adolescent specialist Dr. Jerry Weichman says this is a common new trend. “They can smoke hash oil in these electronic cigarettes, and it just looks like a pen,” he says. “There isn’t a strong smell, and kids can quickly take it out of their backpacks while the teachers aren’t looking.”
Weichman says parents need to start thinking about the potential for substance issues by the time kids reach ages 12 or 13. “They start experimenting in 7th or 8th grade, and it’s really dangerous from a developmental standpoint,” he says. “On the party scene, combining tobacco with weed is really big right now. You’re getting all the negative effects of tobacco and marijuana, increasing how wasted you get. Kids really like this, unfortunately.” The message: Start talking to your son or daughter about drugs and alcohol even younger than you think your child could be into it. In addition, monitor your children’s social media and texting habits—and learn the slang terms associated with potential drug, alcohol or behavioral issues.
Unfortunately, sending ill-advised texts and photos are not the only issue among teenagers, but carrying around texts from friends (and frenemies) in case they need mean-girl ammo later on is also a trend. “Kids will hold on to naked pictures or nasty text messages as blackmail in order to get someone to do what they want,” says Weichman.
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