What’s Competing for Your Teen’s Head as New School Year Kicks Off?
You don’t have to look far to unearth what beyond studies may be competing for your teen’s time, curiosity and attention this school year.
Head shops like The Hidden Smoke Shop in West Palm Beach, Florida, boasting “number one” status among smoke shops in Palm Beach County offer online access to a whole gallery replete with “legal” drug paraphernalia, from “water pipes” (a.k.a. “bongs”) to the psychoactive herb kratom, allegedly linked to a spate of emergency room visits nationwide. All you need for purchase is a credit card.
For teenagers, that can mean incentive: after all, why bother with the hassle of illicit drug dealers or under-aged alcohol purchases when getting your high can be as quick, easy and painless as ordering The Hunger Games trilogy on Amazon?
Kratom, Bath Salts and Spice: The Dangers of Unregulated Head Shop Drugs
Head (“smoke”) shops selling bath salts, kratom and so-called herbal incense blends like Spice or K2 (code words for synthetic marijuana, also known as “THC” or “fake weed”), proliferate around the country. These retailers also enjoy a largely unregulated and prosperous trade in some of the same drugs that appear on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) list of drugs of concern.
Despite a state ban on the sale of bongs, head shops are thriving in Florida, too, as a quick search confirms. Just consult the “Head Shop Finder,” which in the vicinity of Fort Lauderdale alone turns up 69 local listings, among them, Cosmic Charlies, Hemp Factory, and Puff Puff Pass, to name just a few.
The ban has also not succeeded in protecting young Floridians from the health dangers of synthetic marijuana and other substances sold by head shops. Just ask Alfred Aleguas, who directs Florida’s Poison Information Center, which operates out of Tampa General Hospital and covers 16 counties in west-central Florida.
“We’re seeing strokes in young people — teens, 20s, early 30s,” Aleguas told Tampa Bay Times this spring, naming bath salts and spice as the culprit. “That’s a population you’d never expect to see with an intracerebral bleed.”
And, earlier this year a judge reportedly sentenced the owner of the Jacksonville, Florida-based head shop, Mary Jane’s Emporium, to three years in prison for selling a form of synthetic marijuana or spice called “Crazy Clown,” which led to the hospitalizations of at least eight people and sickened still others.
Synthetic Marijuana Poisonings and Deaths Among Young People on the Rise
Incidents like this one belong to a larger nationwide trend showing that while synthetic marijuana use among teens seems to have slightly decreased in the last year, THC overdoses and fatalities among this same population appear to be on the rise:
- In the first half of 2015, three times more people died from synthetic marijuana poisoning than in the same period last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Since January, poison control centers have seen a 229 % spike in synthetic marijuana-related phone calls.
- Young men with a median age of 26 accounted for the bulk of these calls.
- Common side effects reported included agitation, tachycardia (a heartbeat that is too fast), lethargy, vomiting and confusion.
This trend is particularly pronounced in several southern and northeastern states, a May 2015 alert by the National Institute on Drug Abuse states. The implication? The dangers are on Floridians’ doorstep, if not already here.
Teen Curiosity and the Easy Availability of Head Shop Drugs — A Toxic Blend?
If the biggest motivator to use a drug like synthetic marijuana for the first time is sheer curiosity — as a recent University of Cincinatti study of college students concluded — the easy availability of herbal blends like THC and other freely sold head shop drugs may be the perfect vehicle for curious teens to get their high and become acclimated to a larger drug scene.
In other words, your teen’s curiosity plus the ready availability of head shop drugs may add up to a greater risk of developing a substance use disorder or drug addiction.
If you’re worried about your teen’s exposure to head shops and the drugs they pedal, and/or are trying to assess your teen’s level of exposure, their risk of developing a substance use disorder, or their needs for treatment, one of our intake specialists may be able to help and are only a phone call away.
- “Drug Fact Sheets,” DEA
- “Kratom Comes to Florida: Is the Next Big Drug Craze Dangerous?,” Miami New Times
- “Curiosity main motivator behind synthetic THC use among college students, Science Daily
- “Florida New Laws 2013 Include Bong Ban, Faster Death Penalty, Drone Restrictions,” The Huffington Post
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