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Legal Ways Teens Get High

Various pills in a pile next to a glass of alcohol

How Teens Get High Legally

Many parents may be worried about their teens getting into illicit street drugs, and while that threat is real, the streets aren’t the only places teens get drugs. More and more studies show kids are looking inside their homes, at the grocery store, online and in other everyday places to find household items to get high off of.

man getting high on inhalants

Some substances teens use to get high “legally” include:

  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Prescription medications
  • Synthetic substances
  • Alcohol

Finding these “legal” ways to get high is appealing to teens because they get the end result without the risk of buying illegal products. Although misusing these substances is still illegal, kids can easily and legally obtain these items, making it that much easier to score their next high. In some cases, kids may also favor these “legal” highs because they believe the myth that misusing prescription drugs or other household items are safer than using hard street drugs.

Group of teens clinking their beer glasses together.

Misusing household items as drugs, prescription pills and alcohol from home still has dangerous effects, though. In many cases, these drugs can cause life-threatening medical emergencies, accidents or overdose. These drugs can also be just as addictive as street drugs.

The risks of taking these drugs include:

  • Cognitive difficulties and academic struggles
  • Legal trouble
  • Relationship problems
  • Development of mental health symptoms
  • Lifelong struggles with addiction

Ordering Illegal Drugs Online

A tech-savvy teen knows how to order anything they need online, and adolescents are turning to what’s known as the darknet, or online black market, to buy drugs. To a teen, this method of ordering may be preferential because it can be done quickly, anonymously and the drugs will arrive right to their doorstep. Some of the drugs a person can order on the darknet are illegal, but others skirt the legal system by being packaged as something different.


Spice is a mix of shredded plant material sprayed with chemicals that cause a high similar to that of marijuana. This synthetic cannabinoid is also commonly known as K2, fake weed and bliss. Spice addiction is exceedingly dangerous because teens don’t truly know what they’re getting when they smoke a package. Teens can purchase these substances legally on the darknet, in head shops, at truck stops and other locations – but they are only legal because people who make the drug continually alter the chemical compounds used in order to stay one step ahead of the law.


Kratom leaves come from a tropical tree that is native to parts of Southeast Asia. When used in low doses, they can create a stimulant effect in the user, but when taken in large doses, they can cause heavy sedation. Kratom addiction is popular among teens because of the drug’s availability — especially online where it is sold in the form of crushed leaves. Users may steep the leaves and make a tea, smoke them, or put them in gel caps and swallow them.


Salvia is a plant that is native to southern Mexico. Users smoke or chew its leaves in order to experience a hallucinogenic effect. Teens often smoke them or put the leaves in a vaporizer. Like kratom and Spice, salvia is usually purchased online or in head shops, making it easier for teens to fall into the dangers of salvia use.

Bath Salts

bath salts

Synthetic cathinones, known as bath salts, are snorted, swallowed, or injected. The term refers to a range of substances that are derived from chemicals related to cathinone. The two most common are mephedrone and MDPV. They are similar in effect to stimulant drugs like methamphetamine and have been responsible for tens of thousands of emergency room visits. Teens often get these drugs online or in truck stops where they are marked in packages as plant food or jewelry cleaner, and are referred to by misleading names like “Cloud Nine” and “Vanilla Sky.”


Also called whipped lightning, Whipahol is alcohol-infused whipped cream. Teens use the substance to get drunk without drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, teens often ingest whole cans of the whipped cream quickly and can get too drunk too fast. Like all alcohol products, Whipahol is illegal for teens to possess, buy or use, so teens often purchase it online.

Household Ways to Get High

Oftentimes kids don’t have to leave their homes to find their next high. Plenty of household items like expired medications and alcohol are available to them within their family’s four walls.

Alcohol is the most popular drug with teenagers, who often take bottles or cans from the fridge, wine cellar or liquor cabinet while parents and guardians aren’t looking. Although it is illegal to consume alcohol below the age of 21 years old in the United States, alcohol is a legal drug and kids capitalize on its wide availability at home, in restaurants and grocery stores to get drunk.

Many teens also research prescription drugs that can get you high. These drugs are legal when prescribed by a doctor. Many people leave extra prescription pills in their home medicine cabinets, where teenagers often look for pills like Xanax, Valium, OxyContin and other drugs to get high. Adderall and Ritalin are also popular prescription drugs with adolescents, as they are rumored to improve academic performance.

Besides these more conventional drugs, teens also often turn to everyday household items full of chemicals for a high. Many teens experiment with sniffing, snorting or huffing inhalants like aerosol sprays, glue, whiteout, paint thinner, permanent markers, gasoline, spot remover and propane. Teens have also found some more creative, unconventional ways to get high off of household items.


Many teens like feeling drunk but don’t like the taste of alcohol and don’t want the smell of the substance on their breath. Their solution? To pour vodka directly into the eye — called eyeballing — which causes the alcohol to be absorbed into the bloodstream rapidly. It can cause the person to get drunk very quickly, but it can also cause scarring and blindness.


Poppers, or nitrites, are an inhaled substance that triggers a rapid high characterized by feelings of euphoria and dizziness. Poppers are hard to find, so teens typically don’t use them frequently, but when they do they can result in emergency room visits.

The Choking Game

Some teens looking for a rush without the use of illicit substances enjoy playing the choking game when they choke one another so they cannot breathe in the hopes of getting high. The game is extremely dangerous and can cause some to lose consciousness, require a trip to the emergency room, or can even cause accidental death.


Teens are calling the I-dosing trend a digital high. During an I-dose, users listen to MP3s characterized by certain beats that supposedly mimic the effects of being high. The jury is still out on whether or not this actually works, but some teens are working hard to go beyond the emotional pleasure created by listening to favorite music and create a physical high as well.

Alcohol-Soaked Tampon

Similar in nature to the “butt chug,” or practice of inserting a beer into the rectum in order to get drunk more quickly due to the rapid absorption into the bloodstream, the vodka-soaked tampon is inserted vaginally or anally for quick absorption. Some do this to avoid ingesting alcohol calories. The end result is often alcohol poisoning and other medical emergencies.

Smoking Alcohol

Attempting to vaporize alcohol and inhale the fumes is the definition of smoking alcohol. A dangerous practice for teens, it can be accomplished in a number of ways. Some teens use vaporizers to smoke alcohol, while others pour alcohol over dry ice in a thermos and then inhale the fumes through a straw. Some teens do it because they mistakenly believe that there are no calories ingested by getting drunk using this method. Inhaling these fumes means the alcohol goes directly into the bloodstream and to the brain.

Over-the-Counter Drugs That Get You High

various pills on counter

Cough medicines, dietary supplements, sleep aids and caffeine pills are often the first substances of abuse among teens. Easy to purchase or take from home, many teens experiment with these over-the-counter substances believing them to be safe because they are legal and readily available to the public. Unfortunately, the risks of abuse of these medications and supplements are many.

Risks of over-the-counter drug abuse include:

  • Cardiac arrest when taking too many caffeine pills or diet pills, especially in combination with other stimulant substances
  • “Accidental poisoning” caused by taking too much of any cough syrup or medication containing dextromethorphan
  • Over-sedation caused by taking too many sleep aids, especially when taken in combination with alcohol or other prescription medications

Though there may be monitoring programs in place in some states that limit the purchase of some of these medications – especially medications containing DXM or pseudoephedrine – kids may not have any problem purchasing the medications online. Some of the most popular drugs kids like to abuse — No-Doze, diet pills and cough syrup — are also easily available in the medicine cabinet at home.


No-Doze is an over-the-counter stimulant aid that teens may abuse for multiple purposes. Some take a handful of the pills along with alcohol or marijuana in order to increase their ability to drink or stay up and socialize longer. Others crush the pills and snort them, or mix them with the use of other stimulant drugs like crystal meth in order to augment the high.

Still, others may take the pills after abusing depressants in order to stay awake during class or stay up late to work on projects. The high level of caffeine in No-Doze can be dangerous for teens, especially when used in combination with other substances.

Diet Pills

Many teens are exploiting over-the-counter diet pills that boost metabolism or sleep aids that are readily available to help users fall asleep or stay asleep. Teens take large amounts of either medication with the goal of getting high or augmenting other recreational drug use, or they may use large amounts of diet pills in an attempt to lose or maintain an exceptionally low weight. It’s not just young women who are making this choice. Young men, too, struggle with body image – especially those who must maintain a low weight for sports – and may abuse these supplements for weight loss purposes as well.

DXM (Cough Syrup)

cough syrup

“Robo” or “robo tripping” is the abuse of cough syrups like Robitussin that contain the ingredient dextromethorphan, or DXM. Teens drink an entire bottle – or two – of the cough syrup or capsules that are legally sold in drug stores and grocery stores to experience euphoric highs. Because of its accessibility in the home and in medicine cabinets, DXM abuse is prevalent during early adolescence.

Does Your Teen Need Addiction Treatment?

Many teens try to get high off of legal drugs because they associate a drug’s legality and availability with safety. However, just because a drug is legal does not make it safe. Every drug of abuse carries a set of risks, so no amount of substance abuse in your household should go ignored. If your teen is abusing a household substance or other legal drug, they need professional help.

Teen addiction treatment programs at Next Generation Village offer exceptional care that can lead your child into a sober, healthy adulthood. Our experienced addiction specialists get to know each teen and their unique needs so they can provide the best care possible. The high level of quality care is also seen in our Florida teen rehab facility, which is brand new and offers clean, spacious bedrooms, a swimming pool, lake views, a fitness facility and other pleasures of home.

If you are ready to take the next steps in getting your child help for their addiction contact Next Generation Village today. We can help your teen find recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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