In Drugs & Addictions

Legal Highs: How Are Kids Getting High Legally?

legal highs

Drug use by minors is a major concern for parents, schools, and the health care community, as well as government officials. Anti-drug programs have been prevalent in schools since the early 80’s. For some kids the message sinks in but for many the message is lost and experimenting with drugs takes over. The fear then begins that these kids will begin to use harder drugs and develop serious drug addictions. Others move on with life and abandon the thought of using drugs. Some kids are more at risk of using drugs than others. And with the prevalence of legal highs, it’s even more dangerous. 

Risks of Drug Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse identified some risk that can be associated with drug abuse:

• Academic failures

• Caregivers who abuse drugs

• Drug abusing peers

• Drug availability

• Early aggressive behavior

• Ineffective parenting

• Lack of attachment and nurturing

• Lack of parental supervision

• Poor social skills

• Poverty

To exasperate the problem even more, actors, singers, and sports players glorify the use of drugs every day. Children look to these figures as their role models. The influences from the media and peers can be overpowering causing kids to try drugs. It’s not just about kids smoking pot anymore; kids are trying some strange and unusual methods for getting high. With no way to regulate these methods kids are finding more legal ways to get high.

Gone are the days when you worried about your kids using marijuana, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Crack and LSD; now you have to worry whether common household items will be used to fuel your kids’ high. As a warning to parents: you should really monitor what your children are doing, many of the items that are being ingested, inhaled, smoked, or inserted are found in your home under your watchful or neglectful eye. All of the following have dangerous side effects and anyone reading this should not try to use any of these products at all.

How to Get High Legally?

Here’s what kids are using for legal highs:

Cans of compressed air

Commonly used for cleaning the dust off your computer keyboard; kids are inhaling the hydrocarbons. The inhalation of hydrocarbons causes temporary paralysis and oxygen deprivation. Prolonged use can lead to organ damage and death. Parents should watch their cans of dust removers.


Did you know that mothballs emit a gas to keep moths at bay? Paradichlorobenzene can cause severe anemia, liver and kidney failure. Children are placing mothballs in bags and huffing on the bags to elicit a high, from Paradichlorobenzene. The experience makes them lightheaded and dizzy. On top of that they can develop scaly skin and lose concentration.

Purple Stuff

Commonly known as “Sizzurp” and made popular by Houston based, now deceased rappers Big Moe and DJ Screw, both of whom died in conjunction with the use of “Purple Stuff,” and more recently Mac Miller who reportedly had to kick the habit due to family concerns, codeine and promethazine are commonly found in prescription strength cough syrup. The substance is normally mixed with some form of lemon lime based soda and a hard candy to make it sweet. The high is reported to cause mild euphoria which is marked by drowsiness and lethargy. In large doses the nervous system slows down and you can stop breathing.


Yes kids are grabbing each other’s necks until they are near passing out to get high. The premise is that blood flow to the brain is altered to achieve a euphoric sensation coupled with tingling. Kids use hands and also belts and ropes to create this high.

Hand Sanitizer

This one is easy to obtain making it easy to misuse. Laced with more than 60 percent ethanol, drinking hand sanitizer is like having a couple of shots of Vodka. Essentially kids are getting drunk off hand sanitizer. The effects of underage drinking or anyone who is getting drunk are: memory loss, organ damage, blood sugar imbalance and poor motor skills


In the early 1960s catnip was smoked as an alternative to marijuana; catnip is thought to have a calming effect. Frequently used for a cure for insomnia, upper respiratory infections and migraines; catnip is readily available and can be grown quite easily. Users can experience sleepiness, nausea, giddiness, headaches and mild euphoria.

Nitrous Oxide

Found in canned whipped creams and party balloons; nitrous oxide causes frost-bite, death, organ damage and suffocation. Sometimes called laughing gas, using this drug can make you have what appears to be a seizure. Your dentist even uses it when you are put to sleep for dental procedures. However your dentist will add oxygen because with the use of Nitrous Oxide, oxygen is not free for your body to use.


This one is eyebrow raising literally; kids have found that using Burt’s Bees lip balm on the eyelids will create a tingling sensation. As seen on Fox-25 in Oklahoma City, Dr. Brett said that the peppermint oil is what causes the sensation.

Vodka Tampons or Eyeballing

The effects are that alcohol enters the blood stream much faster than it would if you drank it, so kids are soaking tampons and sticking them in their private areas or pouring vodka in their eyeball. The results can be alcohol poisoning. Although this has made news quite recently, Vodka tampons have been a subject of conversation since 1999. The story was brought back to light by the Huffington Post blogger Danielle Crittenden who states that it did not work for her when she tried it just for the sake of a blog post. For a kid that encounters alcohol this way it just might incite a buzz.


Nutmeg contains a substance called myristicin which is a mild psychoactive substance. Kiddos are eating, drinking, and smoking nutmeg to get high; however it can take hours for the high to begin but it can last for days. Users claim to have hallucinations but side effects can be nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness and headaches.


Smarties were banned from schools beginning in 2010 for some and carrying over for most in 2011, because kids were using them to get high. Smarties Parties were being held by kids in middle and high schools. The kids were crushing the candies into a powder and then snorting them up their noses. While no real high has been reported to have been achieved, the stigmatism of snorting any substance up your nose just worries most parents; giving the impressions that if something harder was obtainable it may be used. On the list with Smarties there’s also pixie stix.


This one is not for the faint of heart so brace yourself; Jenkem is human waste that has been fermented. It’s believed that Jenkem originated in Africa in the 90’s; but has become somewhat of an urban legend in the United States. Fermenting the waste creates methane that kids would inhale to get high. Of course inhaling such a substance would cause oxygen levels in the body to be low causing side effects.


Originating in Indonesia, Betel is a leaf that is chewed. The leaves are mild legal stimulants and help to improve your mood. It’s only illegal in United Arab Emirates. Large doses of the leaves can produce sedation. The betel contains a substance called alkaloid arecoline, which is carceinogenic, and prolonged use has been known to cause pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth. Using Betel nut also causes low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and aggravating asthma. Commonly ordered online.

Cacao Powder

If you are a health enthusiast this one may shock you. Praised for its many health benefits, who knew you could actually use it to get a legal high? Cacao contains a substance called Theobromine, which acts like caffeine to stimulate the brain and cause euphoria. People who take too much will urinate more frequently and you can get theobromine poisoning if you overdose.

Morning Glory Seeds

Yes, the ones found in the garden isle of your local gardening store; 3 of these seeds are said to have the same effect as LSD. The seeds contain a substance called Ergine or d-lysergic acid amide dubbed LSA, which are natural legal psychedelics. If you ingest too much you will vomit; however psychedelics are unpredictable and an unstable child might be a suicide risk. LSA is not only found in morning glory seeds but other plants’ seeds also.


Found in your refrigerator, freezer or air conditioning units, Freon is a potentially dangerous gas to breathe in. The users experience euphoria but Freon use can lead to liver, brain and heart damage. Other dangers include possible frostbite and death.

Potpourri and Incense

Kids can purchase this legal drug at the gas station and is usually called synthetic marijuana. Although getting high off potpourri can cost more than using marijuana, the side effects are very different. Kids can experience a euphoric high, but use of the drug has been known to cause convulsions, paranoia, hallucinations and seizures. Some of the ingredients for potpourri have been banned by the DEA and so makers have switched their components. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse 11, 406 deaths were linked to synthetic marijuana.

Bath Salts

These aren’t those Mediterranean bath salts you pay for from the famous bath stores; these are commonly sold at smoke shops and can really have some bad side effects. They have the same properties of amphetamines; however the active ingredient is Mepheodrone which is synthetic form of amphetamines. Users experience hallucinations, paranoia, elevated mood and mild sexual stimulation. Side effects are numerous including anxiety, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing and nose bleeds.

The war on drugs has a new face but there is not much that can be done about it. All of the drugs listed, although they have some pretty risky side effects, have not been made illegal. Although many are being monitored by the DEA, surgeon general, and FDA the products are being misused and none of them were created for drug use. As long as there is a need to get high, people will find new and inventive ways for creating a “high.”

Until these substances are made illegal parents are encouraged to monitor their children. With peer pressure being a prevalent reason why many kids begin using drugs coupled with other social problems, parents should continue the “say no to drugs” campaign that so many learn in school, at home. Children that are at risk of illegal drugs use these legal drugs as gateways to start using other types of drugs. Adopting a try-anything approach to life has been made famous by musicians and actors with the phrases “YOLO” (You only live once). Without the proper guidance and the continued sensationalism in the media, legal drugs keep finding their way into the hands of our kids. Pill parties, smarties parties, and other means of getting high can have some pretty devastating effects for teens and their parents.

Not even the fear of death or near death has stopped teens from trying the next big high. Emily Bauer of Houston, TX learned this lesson the hard way. At age 16, her family thought they lost their beloved Emily after using synthetic marijuana, her parents knew that she had smoked actual weed on several occasions previously. They have forbidden her to use the drug and when she was placed in a coma for using potpourri they were faced with the difficult decision of ending life support. Luckily for them Emily made a full recovery, but her story is just one of many that show the dangers of these legal drugs.

Many of these drugs have not been studied and more information is needed to make a fair designation as to what should be banned. As stated previously in the instance of some of these drugs it will take parents monitoring their kid’s behavior; after all, what alternatives do we have other than putting Freon in our refrigerators and freezers? How else can you dispel whipped cream; and yes we need those cans of dust off to keep our computers clean? At the end the best legal highs are the ones you don’t try!

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