Teen trends of substance abuse and energy drinks

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Dan Becker, MS, LADC and Steve Lanz, MSW

Over the past several years there has been an unprecedented growth in the introduction of new mood altering products — both legal and illegal — that carry the potential for abuse by our youth. Unfortunately these chemicals have been welcomed into our youth culture with open arms. Our Emergency Room and hospital have witnessed an increase in related admissions and even death. Unlike more traditional chemicals such as alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, etc., is the troubling aspect that we have no idea of the potential long-term consequences in youth who use these products.

In Central Minnesota, the term “BOGO” has become the preferred youth-generated term that includes all these new drugs coming out of laboratories and available online.

Characteristics of BOGO drugs

  • Promoted as synthetic pot, synthetic cocaine or synthetic meth, K2, bath salts, etc.
  • They can be uppers, downers or a mix of both.
  • Low in cost.
  • Much more powerful than traditional street drugs.
  • Infinite number of combinations that can be made and our legal system has been unable to respond to the rapid changes. The drugs often don’t show up in most toxicology screenings making detection difficult.
  • The avenue of ingestion is changing and may be used in e-cigarettes, breath strips or mints, to name a few.
  • Access to these chemicals is very easy. Youth can get a cash card from a store, go online with it and purchase these chemicals. There also has been a rapid increase in number of websites that sell these chemicals to our youth.

Another emerging teen trend that needs to be studied is related to the use of energy drinks. The potency of these beverages is alarming. A 12-ounce can of Pepsi has approximately 34 milligrams of caffeine while MiO Energy has 720 milligrams of caffeine. This means a MiO energy drink has the same amount of caffeine as approximately 21 cans of Pepsi. Teens tend to consume the entire Mio at one time. The physical and psychological impact on a 12-year old body should be of great concern to parents and educators.

Research and studies need to be done to help plan effective strategies for intervention and treatment. In the mean time it is imperative that we stay current and educated and communicate with our youth. Their naiveté could prove to be deadly.